Monday, October 8, 2012

Marybeth's notebooks - how one girl gets things done

A favorite question I like to ask people is, "So how do you ensure you get things done?"



I asked this the other week of my friend Marybeth Whalen.  Marybeth and I worked together for a number of years. I was editor of a publication she regularly wrote for. Of all the writers for this publication, she was the most on-time and consistent of the entire group.

Did I mention she also has six kids?

And writes for other publications? And writes novels?

Marybeth described to me a two-list system she employs using a simple spiral notebook and a smaller notebook.

In the larger notebook she lists everything - absolutely everything she has to, or would like to, or is considering doing that month. One notebook per month and everything goes into here.

Then she takes the smaller notebook and she pulls tasks out of the larger one to make a daily to-do list. She makes sure just a handful of tasks goes on each day's to-do, paying attention to which ones are pressing or time-sensitive. 

If she finishes her to-do list for the day quickly she'll often return to the large notebook and pull some more tasks onto the day's list.  If she doesn't get to everything on that day's list, she turns the page at day's end and places the unfinished tasks on tomorrow's list ... then adds a few more tasks from the larger notebook.

 

Marybeth's method is simple and inexpensive - buy a stack of notebooks each year at the back-to-school clearence sales and you're good to go. Maybe get some colored pens on sale too if you want to color-code your tasks into "personal" and "professional" catagories.

Let's take a quick informal poll: How do you make your to-do lists?

A) On Paper (notepad, notebook, planner, scrap paper)
B) Electronically (in a computer software program, or with a phone app)
C) On the Wall  (on a whiteboard or chalk board)
D) I Don't!  (I rarely make to-do lists, or not in any consistent way)

14 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I keep electronic to-do lists, which I access through my phone, work computer, home computer, etc. My favorite apps at the moment are Evernote and Wunderlist.

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    1. I've heard good things about Wunderlist, Heather!

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  2. B)
    I keep my to-do list on my phone because I always have my phone with me!

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  3. I am a paper girl, but being a stay-at-home mom, I don't always have a literal "list". But I have seriously been considering weekly goals for cleaning tasks as these are the ones that always get put to the side when I find myself volunteering at the school or just busy with appointments and unexpected things that come up. I love this idea of a monthly list. Seems like a great way to keep up with long term goals. I may have to give this a try! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Uh, yeah, I know all about those cleaning tasks that get repeatedly put to the side in favor of doing work I deem more fun. :)

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  4. I'm a mix of the first one and the last one. I should but I don't tend to make to do lists. I try to keep it all in my head! But when I do make a list, I make it on the notepad that stays by the phone in my kitchen or at my desk.

    Love those pretty notebooks in the photo!

    Kimber

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  5. Mostly, I use paper. There is satisfaction in using a pen to make check marks or for crossing completed tasks off with a manual strike-thru. I've tried making a list on excel, and I often forget to check it, and the strike thru's aren't as satisfying ;). And crumpling up the completed list and tossing it is more satisfying than just hitting 'delete'!

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    1. I can totally relate to you, Colleen!

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  6. I usually make my lists on scrap pieces of paper. I'm with Colleen and love to scratch off the tasks as they are completed and crumple the piece of paper and throw it in the trash when it's all done.

    Love those cute little notebooks made out of cereal boxes! Who knew a cereal box could be recycled in such a way - love it! : )

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  7. I too use a journal, but just one large one where I make a weekly task list and then each day write a daily list. I also keep prayers and Bible verses in these journals as well as lists of words I feel God is giving me. Those word lists often develop into blog posts or storylines.

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    1. Facinating that your blog posts and stories emerge from this notebook as well. Thanks for sharing that!

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  8. Janet BurkeOctober 09, 2012

    And the correct answer for me is.... All of the above! When I make lists on paper- post-its etc I sometimes lose them which drives me crazy. The electronic version I sometimes forget about... out of sight, out of mind. I do have a giant dry-erase calendar that I write stuff on and reminders etc. Pretty hard to lose that or not see it! Apparently I need to organize my organizational methods :)

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    1. Hey Janet. I have that out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem too. If you like post-its, one of my Pinterest boards has a cool idea for how to use and organize those for a to-do system. Check it out.

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  9. I loved this post, Rachel! I just had some friends over today to help me with my office. As I am getting more busy, things are starting to fall through the cracks. This method sounds great for a "paper" girl like me!

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