I love reading organization and planning books. I love learning about the systems that other people have created to stay on top of all the tasks that they need to get done on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I have found that all the systems I have read about are lacking in some way.
The ABC tasks system is wonderful for the first level control that most people need, and it is better than nothing, but often I found myself looking at my list of A tasks, and thinking “I can’t do that now because … ”
David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, has been the best I have found to date, but it lacks a section to cover the routine tasks that homemakers face on a daily basis.
FlyLady’s Routine system is brilliant for the daily, weekly and monthly routine tasks that are required in homemaking, but it lacks project management and how to handle once off tasks.
That is why, when I started organizing my life, I combined the 3 systems mentioned above to make one that works for me. I have been developing this system over the past 2 years, fine-tuning the details. I am now ready to share it with other homemakers.
Brief Explanation of the 3 systems
The ABC task system is the simplest. You need to write down a list of all the tasks that you need to get done. Get it all out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Then you label each task with a letter A, B or C.
- A-Tasks are the to-do items that you absolutely HAVE to do today, they cannot wait until tomorrow. These could be things like “invite grandma to little Kate’s ballet recital tomorrow” or “Buy milk”
- B-Tasks are the to-do items that need to be done this week or month, but not necessarily today. For example “Phone Mom to chat”.
- C-Tasks are the to-do items that you would like to get done sometime this year, but are not urgent. For example “Finish Baby Scrapbook”.
Once you have the ABC tasks listed, then you add the A-tasks to today in your daily planner, the B-tasks go onto a “Weekly” list, and the C-tasks go onto a “Someday/Maybe” list.
David Allen’s Getting Things Done
I learned about this system while at my previous workplace. It was a requirement that we followed this system. I have grown to know this system extensively because of the requirement. I strongly advise that you buy and read David Allen’s book because my brief outline below won’t do the system justice.
In a very brief overview, you first need a collection basket of some kind. I use a physical In-Basket, a notebook and the Google Keep application on my android phone. Whenever you think of something that needs to be done, add it into your collection basket. Then try to empty out your collection basket on a daily basis, updating your To-Do lists.
David Allen defines a Project as anything that requires more than 1 step to reach it’s completion. An example of this would be “Arrange John’s 1st birthday party”. Then under the project heading you would list all the “Next Actions” or “To-Do’s” that are required to complete the project, for example: Create Guest List, Choose invitations, send out invitations etc. These Project Documents are your control list of To-Do’s for each large To-Do item.
The next point of David Allen’s system is to separate the To-Do items by Context. For example all the tasks that you need access to a phone to do will go onto the @Phone list, all the tasks that you have to do within your home will go onto the @Home list, and so on.
These context lists are a great way to organize the A and B tasks mentioned in the previous section.
The last system I have mentioned is FlyLady’s Routine system. In her system you create Daily, Weekly and Monthly Routine lists. These are the things that people usually have to do every single day, week or month. For example:
- Morning Routine
- Get Dressed to the Shoes
- Make Tea/Coffee
- Turn on washing machine
- Make Breakfast
- Daily Routine
- Drink your water
- Get 15-minutes of exercise
- Evening Routine
- Start Dinner
- Eat Dinner with family
- Wash Dishes
- Shine Sink
- Before Bed Routine
- Brush Teeth
- Get to bed at a decent hour
FlyLady recommends using a three-ring binder and placing the routines in sheet protectors, then using a white-board marker to check off items as you do them.
You can read all about her system here
Authentically Ash To-Do List System
Now that you have an overview of the three systems that I am basing mine on, I can let you see my “Control Journal” (a term borrowed from FlyLady)
Mission, Vision and Affirmations
Behind this tab, you will find any documents related to my personal Mission for my life, my personal goals and a few other documents, diagrams and quotes that I found inspiring and want to have easy access to on a regular basis. For example, at the time of writing this, I have:
- “The 7 Habits Tree” from the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“,
- the “Workflow Diagram” from the book Getting Things Done,
- “The Homemakers Creed” from Finding Betty Crocker,
- “FlyLady’s 11 Commandments“,
- My Personal Mission Statement
- A list of my Area’s of Responsibility
- My 1-2 year goals
- My 3-5 year goals
- My Lifetime dreams/goals
This part comes from David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. These are project documents for everything that I am doing that requires more than one step to reach completion.
Unlike the GTD system, I have also included projects that will never reach completion (like a Homemaking project for example). These projects have more than one step, but they are ongoing projects that cannot be perfected, only done better with each passing day.
Each project has a one page document associated with it that contains the purpose of the project (Why am I doing this?), what I would consider to be a “Wild Success” for this project, my Objectives of the project and a list of all the Next Actions (To-Do’s) with their context next to them.
At the time of writing this my active projects include:
- Authentically Ash
- Baby Preparation
- Bloemfontein Tourism
- Christmas 2015
- Getting Things Done
- Kimberley Tourism
- Meals + Recipes
- Organize Now
- Spiritual / Christian
This also comes from David Allen’s GTD system. In this tab I keep a complete list of all the To-Do tasks that I have, based on the context of the task.
At the time of writing this, the contexts in my file are:
- @Mark (these items I need to discuss with my husband Mark)
- @WaitingOn (these tasks I am waiting on somebody else to complete or get back to me on)
In the ABC system, these action lists consist of the B tasks, and some C tasks.
These are the C-tasks, also called Someday/Maybe lists as per David Allen’s GTD system. Behind this tab I keep all the dreams and ideas of things I would like to do or buy, at some point in the future, but I cannot do anything about right now due to financial or time constraints.
At the time of writing this, I have the following Someday/Maybe lists:
- Master Bedroom improvements
- Cars (this includes non-urgent car repairs and cars I might consider buying when I need to replace the one I have)
- Kitchen improvements
- Movies to watch/buy
- Front Porch improvements
- Websites I want to make
- Items to buy
The Daily Checklist idea comes from the FlyLady system. These are things that I need to do daily to keep my never-ending projects running smoothly. I have separated the Daily Checklists into the following sections, with the context and the project it belongs to next to each task:
- Morning Checklist
- Rise and Shine Routine
- Kitchen and Family Routine
- Get ready for the day Routine
- Before leaving the house Routine
- Daily Checklist
- Get to office Routine
- Home from Work Routine
- Other (stuff I can do at home or office)
- Evening Checklist
- Early Evening Checklist (5pm to 7pm)
- Mid-Evening Checklist (7pm to 8pm)
- Before Bed Checklist (8pm to 10pm)
This also comes from the FlyLady system. These are the items I need to do on a specific day of the week or at some point during the week. I also include the context next to each task (e.g. @Home or @Office) and the project the task belongs to. Naturally, these are separated into Sunday to Saturday, and one called “Anytime”.
Once again, from the FlyLady system, I keep a checklist of the tasks that I need to complete during the course of the month. It includes the monthly cleaning schedule, separated into Week 1 to Week 5 of the month, a list of tasks I need to do at some point during the month, but not in a specific week, and a list of tasks I need to do in the current month (all the January tasks for example).
The last part that I took from the FlyLady system is the Yearly or Special Checklists. I keep all the monthly checklists for the months I am not currently busy with in this section. I also keep special checklists related to certain projects or events in this section. At the time of writing this, my special checklists include:
- Baby Preparation Checklist – all the items I need to buy for the new baby arriving at the end of April
- Bookkeeping Checklist – A checklist of things I need to check each time I do our monthly bookkeeping
- Camping Checklist – A list of all the items we need to take with whenever we go camping
- Car Maintenance Checklist – A list of all the items to check on the car on a regular basis (usually monthly)
- Grocery Reminders Checklist – A master list of all the items I usually need around the house or in the cupboard. I use this list to remind myself that we are running low on certain standard supplies, or items that can be stored long term so I can buy them on sale.
- Yearly Review Checklist – A list of things that I want to think about and reassess in my life at the beginning of each year.
This section contains all the projects that I have completed, as well as my old Action Lists. I tend to be future focused, and often forget my accomplishments of the past, so I find that keeping the completed projects for a while helps me stay motivated. I clean out this section once a month, and use it as a reminder of how much I actually accomplished in the previous month. The major events/accomplishments I write into my journal.
The last section, called a Tickler file, also comes from David Allen’s system. It contains tabs labelled January to December, and tabs labelled 1-31. In January you place all the numbered tabs behind the January tab. As the days pass you move the numbered tab behind the February tab, and continue this process throughout the year.
Now, if you are given a flier for a concert at the park, and you think that you might like to attend the concert, but the tickets only go on sale on February the 10th, then you can put the flier behind the February tab.
This Tickler file serves as a reminder of things you need to do, or might like to do, on a specific day or in a specific month, but you don’t have to concern yourself with right now.
This tickler file can also be used to replace a daily planner / calender.
My Family Calendar sits behind the Kitchen Door. This is the place where Mark and I enter events that we need to attend, either individually or together. I also put my Menu Plan on this calendar.
Mark and I use Cozi to manage our grocery list. We also use it to enter tasks on each other’s To-Do lists. For example, if he isn’t at home and I remember that I need him to fix the hook behind the bedroom door, then I’ll go onto the Cozi application and add it to his To-Do list. He will do the same if he needs me to do something that isn’t urgent when I am not around.
We also use the Cozi Calendar function to add items to our calendars “on-the-go”, but these are transferred to our kitchen calendar once a day.
The last item in my Organization System is the Daily Planner. This is where I enter the A-tasks as described in the ABC system. These are the things that I absolutely have to get done today. I also include a list of up to 5 items that I would “like” to get done today. These items come from my Action Lists, or are considered B-Tasks in the ABC system.
Maintaining the system
The maintenance of this system is fairly easy (once it has been established).
- Daily Maintenance
- Empty Collection buckets and add items to your Action Lists, Tickler, or create new projects as appropriate.
- Write out the A-tasks into your planner the day before or first thing in the morning
- Update your Family Calender once a day
- Enter Events into your planner the day before or first thing in the morning
- Choose 3-5 tasks from your action lists and add them to your daily planner to be done on a daily basis (assuming that you haven’t got a full day of A-tasks).
- Review and update Tickler file
- Weekly Maintenance
- Once a week, go through all your action lists and check off the items that are completed and you forgot to check off.
- Update and decide upon the next actions in your projects
- Print out new checklists for the coming week. I find that I often think of something that needs to be added to the checklist during the week, or I discover that it is easier to do a certain task before doing another one, so I usually print out new/updated checklists weekly.
- Write out fresh Action Lists.
- Monthly Maintenance
- Review your Someday/Maybe lists. Decide on one item that you want to get done this coming month, and remove items that no longer interest you.
- Go over your completed lists and look at how much you accomplished in the past month!
Next Week: Setting up this System
In next week’s blog post I am going to walk you through setting up this system for yourself. Hope you all check back then!
What are your thoughts?
Do you have a system that works well for you? Or are you still searching for one? What do you struggle with when organizing your To-Do’s? I would love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment!