Life + Health

Can you squeeze me into an empty page of your diary?

Subway station at Dyckman Street. This photo has nothing to do with the post. At least I don’t think it does.

I know, I know…posts here are few and far between. I wish that weren’t the case, but lately life has been busy. And yeah, I keep saying that, but it’s true. I know there are plenty of people (like, say, people with kids or President Obama, for example) who are busier than I am, but I guess they’re all just better at handling it. I am really bad with budgeting my time, and I’m one of those weird procrastinators who manages to mentally rearrange priorities in a way that neglects the stuff that actually matters and has a deadline attached to it but make me feel like it’s super important that I rearrange my canned goods RIGHT NOW OR ELSE.

I other words, I’m ridiculous.

I need to figure all of this out. I want to learn how to plan a schedule and get organized. I want to know how to use a calendar. I don’t want to always be feeling like nothing is done and that I have a million obligations looming over my head. For whatever reason, I wound up with one of those brains that needs to physically write something down with a pen on paper before I can remember it. Taking notes on a computer (I don’t own a smart phone) doesn’t work—I need to actually make the words with my hand in order for them to connect with my brain, it seems.

I really like these Tomorrow Planners from Poketo. I’ve kind of decided that if I buy one, it will change my life. I haven’t bought one yet, though. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t work. Or maybe I’m just horrified by the shipping fee. Whatever it is that’s stopping me, I’m still writing everything down on Post-It notes and the backs of receipts.

This is the least cohesive post I’ve ever written, but also one of the most honest. I’m not the get-it girl you think I am, you know. I’m kind of a mess.

My fellow write-it-downers: How do you keep track? Do you have a magical notebook? A special pen? Extra coffee? How can I make this happen? Help.

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  • Reply Hoping to get organized. May 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm


    I hope your readers can help! I thought I was the only one like this, but your post describes me to a tee! I have a special pen but it doesn’t help much. I keep buying cute/pretty notebooks and that keeps me motivated for a while (i have an embaressingly huge collection of unused notebooks), but then I get lazy (unmotivated?) and I go back to making mental lists, post-its, back of receipts. I carry 2-3 agendas with me at all times, hoping that I will write things down in an organized manner if I lug these pretty books all around town, but I rarely do. And those rare occasions when I actually *do* write things down, it doesn’t help much because when it comes time to refer to my list, I refer to my mental list instead. If you figure it out, please let me know!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:44 am

      That pretty much sounds exactly like me! I think we just need better pens. That must be it…

  • Reply Michelle May 10, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I know the feeling. I am also in the midst of figuring out a system to keep things in order. I just got a blackberry for work. Plus I have my iPhone for personal uses. I have a Moleskine planner. And an address book. Contacts in my Outlook, Gmail, Word document, and post it notes. Several spiral notebooks. I think the key is to stick to one thing and MAINTAIN it. I’ve been thinking about having one calendar for both work and personal because I double booked a lunch for a doctor’s appointment and a networking event. Life and work doesn’t have such dividing lines anymore…

  • Reply Melissa May 10, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Buy the planner. If not one of these, another one. You won’t regret it. I use mine DAILY. If I lost it, I would cry and hide in my closet. I used to use post-it notes and have random lists everywhere, but that made everything feel chaotic and like there were so many things to do. By having one list/schedule in the planner, it all feels more manageable.

    And yes, I have a special pen, too. 🙂

  • Reply Dan @ Manhattan Nest May 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    I SO feel you, especially these days when I’ve just been insanely jam-packed. I’ve owned plenty of planners over the years and always just stop using them when the novelty wears off after a couple days/weeks. When things get insane-insane, I tend to print off iCal calendars of entire weeks (so one page=a week), write out the big things I have to do, then spend too long writing out hour-by-hour sequences of events that I rarely actually follow. For some reason this makes me feel better.

    Let me know when you find the secret… I’m all ears.
    (by the by, I’ve always been told in my psych classes that hand-writing things is WAY better for your memory and comprehension than typing… something about how it engages your body physically and visually helps the brain process)

  • Reply victoria May 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    i feel your pain. the “looming” is killing me. maybe we should start a self-help group. i like studio violet journals, too. i’ve making lists with check boxes for a while, now. sadly, there’s a lot of empty check marks.

  • Reply bridget May 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I love technology but I MUST write everything down and make lists, with a Le Pen only. For my personal life I use a little agenda with a refill-able notebook inside (from Graphic Image) but for work I just like a big cheap legal pad (but not with a spiral top, cause you’re in danger of flipping over the page and forgetting about it. Not good). I make a little box on the beginning of the line, write down my “to do” after it and cross out the box when the task is complete. That way you can easily see what is yet to be done. Calendars don’t really do it for me, just lists. And more lists. Jeez….didn’t mean to write this much!

    • bridget May 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Awww, Victoria, I KNEW we were soul mates! 🙂

    • bridget May 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm

      Ok, seriously, I’m sorry to keep replying to you, but I just read your comment on the attached picture, and I do the same thing–if my list looks “ugly” I will start over! Oh my god, we’re crazy! Do you know how hard it was to take notes in school?? It was never about the subject, only about how nice my notes looked! Of course you know!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:46 am

      I love the checkboxes! Maybe I need to try that instead of crossing out lines. Hmmm!

    • marie May 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      Had a woman at work recommend the switch to boxes and it really made a difference. There is more order with the boxes.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm


    • Amanda May 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      Agree on the boxes. My boss at my last job did it, and I started copying him. It’s so much more satisfying and visually pleasing to check the box rather than cross off the item. Plus it’s fun to draw the boxes, like doodling.

    • Lizzy May 11, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      I do check boxes for items where I’ve done all I can and am waiting on someone else (like waiting for a handyman to call you back to schedule an appointment). I do checks when I actually have completed the item. I generally have just one notebook and I put all of my lists and random thoughts in there; then I know where to look!

  • Reply Carrie May 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I have the planner on the left and love it. I make to do lists in it everyday. I actually paid way to much money to ship it in from Australia because I couldn’t find it in the US. Thanks for the link; I’ll stock up.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

      I think I may just go ahead and buy two. It looks like it has just the right amount of space for each day!

  • Reply Kim @ HousetoHomestead May 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Love the title of this post! I have this Moleskine planner (, and it’s awesome. I like that it has a full note page opposite the days, so I can scribble all my notes there…it’s like a notebook with dates! I’m pretty free-form in my planning, so this really works for me.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

      My problem with Moleskines is that the paper is coated (?) with something that makes it nearly impossible to write on them easily with my favorite pens. Weird! I have several blank Moleskines as a result…

    • Eliza May 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      that is totally weird…

      i was going to say, i use moleskines, and then i draw in schedules on a week to week basis (though i usually draw them in roughly two to three weeks before hand), which allows me to keep pages blank for to-do lists that covers more than one days to-do’s. moleskines are my preference, but i’ll use just about anything, honestly.

      (also, hi, first time commenting, but i loves your blog.)

  • Reply Gaby May 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I think procrastination is another form of masochism, just like guilt, and all kind of things we do against ourselves.
    I do it all the time, feeling bad and guilty for not being organized and having long lists of stuff waiting for me… Until I realize that this is something I do, and that I have to stop torturing myself. One tiny task at a time, not big expectations but keeping a good rythm.
    Lists need paper! Any kind of paper would do for me, but I need a really nice pen to write things down.
    Hope it helps. As one popular song here says “when you look closer, nobody is normal”.

  • Reply Carrie May 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    *too, not to 🙂

  • Reply Jules May 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    I actually just wrote about this on my blog Friday before last. If I don’t have a to-do list, I do nothing all day. I wander. I flit from project to project and put off the projects that have deadlines or are important. I’m ridiculous, too.

    I’ve tried every planner out there, and they haven’t worked. I can’t do lists on the computer and I also don’t own a smart phone. I can’t even write my lists on those cute to-do pads of paper they sell. For me, the only thing that ever, every works is an 8.5×11 piece of paper with a VERY detailed list typed or written. If things are looking especially hectic, I have large card stock (maybe 14×24?) and I very neatly write everything down that I must do in a thick pen. I prop it up where I will see it most often throughout the day.

    I cross out everything I do with a sharpie or heavy pen.

    This is the key, at least for me. My to-do must include everything, even things that I have just done or am about to do. There’s a satisfaction in crossing stuff off your list, so it helps to start off on a good foot and encourages you to do more! Some of the things I include:

    Put on makeup
    Make breakfast for the boys (my sons)
    Make breakfast for me
    Eat breakfast
    Drop Mikey off at school

    and so on and so on. I really break it down to the minutia, and there are things I put on my list that I wouldn’t dream of forgetting or putting off (dropping off and picking up my son from school, for example) but I find that including them is instrumental for my day to feel productive. First, they are things I DO, and it’s important to acknowledge them and see where my time goes. As it turns out, I don’t fritter away my days like I sometimes feel. Second, it feels GOOD to cross things off.

    It took me a long time to realize that without a plan, I’m useless. Some people are great off the cuff, but I’m not. To-do lists have made a world of difference for me…and I should do one. I haven’t in a couple of weeks and my life shows it.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

      Oh yeah, I definitely like listing the minutiae…at least when it comes to errands and weekend tasks. With work it’s another story!

  • Reply Jules May 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Gah! I just exploded in your comment section. I’m sorry. (Hot button, anyone?) Sheesh.

  • Reply Heather May 10, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    The Moleskine Weekly Notebook is my paper brain. There is space to write to-do’s on specific days and an entire page for notes/to-do’s on the facing page for each week. Plus a pocket for loose papers and a removable address book (so you can keep it from year to year). And an elastic band that also helps contain loose pages and will keep a pencil from falling out. I use the large, but sometimes think I might need the extra large when life gets crazy, if only it would fit in my purse. This thing goes with me everywhere.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

      I actually HAVE that planner, but as I was saying in another comment a minute ago, for some reason none of my favorite pens like to write on Moleskine paper. Isn’t that weird?! It drives me crazy!

  • Reply peggy May 10, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    This post is not as weird as you think. I, for one, really liked it. I like its honesty. I know exactly what you mean about the canned goods. I am the world’s best (or worst) procrastinator. Whenever I need to write a paper all of a sudden my kitchen floor MUST be scrubbed RIGHT NOW or the human race as we know it will cease to exist. At all other times I don’t give a shit about that floor.

    I am also a person who must write something in order to remember it. There is something about the action of my hand and my eyes perceiving what I am writing. If I don’t write it down, I won’t remember. I always have a composition book with me. You know the old school kind. I use it to make lists of things I need to do, want to do and for brainstorming and sketching. Since I’m anal, I always put a date on the top of each page.

    I never get as much done as I’d like. But. After a couple of weeks, just about the time I am beating myself up for not getting anything done, I turn back the pages and I can give myself check marks! That’s incredibly gratifying. And it’s a good reminder that I’m not as big a lump on a log as I think.

    One other word about this post. Thanks for the honesty. I sometimes get really down after spending a morning reading blogs because everyone seems so perfect except me. Sometimes it’s refreshing to read some honesty.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

      “Whenever I need to write a paper all of a sudden my kitchen floor MUST be scrubbed RIGHT NOW or the human race as we know it will cease to exist. At all other times I don’t give a shit about that floor.”

      HAHHAHA. Yes. That says it all, peggy! And I’ve been like that since I was a little kid. I can remember doing this exact sort of thing when I was 8 or 10 years old…I’m sure my mother can back me up here, too!

    • Shelley Clarke May 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      In our family we (my sister) calls this “buttfirst disease”. We’ve inherited from our mother. I think it’s genetic. “But first I should”…….you fill in the blank with whatever catches your attention that could wait but suddenly seems so very important right now. It was not uncommon to find my mother half way done about 6 tasks, load of laundry on, vacuum out but only half of the vacuuming done, cupboards open with some variation of reorganization going on. I’ve often wondered if it happens because women with young children get interrupted while they’re doing everything.

      I personally love a small diary with weekly pages and space for notes. I also carry a catch all small notebook that I have deemed my brain parking lot – for whatever, book, album, artist, website, phone number or important detail I want to remember. Not in any order – no requirements for organization. This works for me.

    • Lisa May 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

      Buttfirst disease- moaha, I definitely suffer from that!
      Another issue I have is that when I’m gonna start a task, I think of something else that really should be done before, something actually important.
      But since that is often something I REALLY don’t want to do, I put it off, by every possible means.
      But I feel too guilty actually doing another proper task that will take time, so I end up just doing completely useless little things, like having a snack, taking out the rubbish, sorting some papers, commenting on a fab blog…

  • Reply Caroline May 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    No idea. At all. I’ve tried all of the things mentioned in the comments. They tend to work for me for a few hours and then I gradually drift back off to aimlessly wandering through my day, leaving a woefully unchecked To Do list at bedtime. 🙁

    Please post the solution if you figure it out! I am starting grad school in the fall and my lack of time-management skills have me sort of terrified, haha.

  • Reply Katherine May 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Go for it. Just keep trying different things until a system sticks. Someday, it will all work.

    At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

    Right now, I have a planner that I write my appointments, deadlines, and important dates in, and I then I also put it in my Google calendar and get that agenda emailed to me every day.

    It’s getting better.

    I love my Sharpie Liquid Pencil. It becomes permanent after a certain point, but I like that I can erase things if I spell something incorrectly or write it on the wrong day if I catch it quickly.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

      The words “Sharpie Liquid Pencil” just sent a shiver of excitement up my spine. I must investigate!

    • Shelley Clarke May 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm

      Pens are just a reward ;@)

    • Jules May 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Sharpie Liquid Pencil?! Keep talking.

    • Danielle May 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      Just got one…not all that impressed. It’s basically a fancy name for an erasable pen. It erases just fine, but it doesn’t write all that well (just as I recall the good old fashioned erasable pens didn’t) 🙁 Oh well. The sharpie fine tip pens are nice, though and they come in different colors.

    • Monica May 12, 2011 at 3:39 am

      Sharpie Liquid Pencil?! I certainly just woke up.

  • Reply Nubby May 10, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I am also one of those people that has to physically write everything down….otherwise it doesn’t exist. I use a Moleskine planner that’s got a single page for every day of the year. I re-write my to-do list every single day so that way, if something doesn’t get done, it keeps getting carried over an haunting me until it’s completed!

  • Reply erin May 11, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I just use a notebook. Moleskine, hand-made, what-have-you.

    Recently, I’ve been experimenting with some of the techniques from Zen Habits and Making Ideas Happen.

    I pick three MITs (Most Important Tasks), and write them down in order to commit to them:

    I use this method for personal to-dos only, as I don’t seem to have any issues with getting work tasks done in a timely fashion.

    Making Ideas Happen is a bit business specific, but has lots of strategies for tackling the items that have been sitting on that pesky to-do list for ages. This is the associated site:

    If you can look past the atta’ boy vibe, the tips and strategies are inspiring and not too hard to use.

    ps. Zen Habits also has this tidbit about procrastination. I haven’t read it yet (ha ha) but it might be worth a read:

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

      Ooooooh. Is it bad that the thought of reading about this stuff makes me sort of cower in fear?

  • Reply Tess May 11, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I’ve tried all kinds of planners- and failed with each one. My most successful method is one long running post-it on my desktop (always open). It’s not a ‘write it down’ method exactly, but it’s what works best for me. My husband recently insisted we have a ‘family calendar’ he can see too, so we now have a Google Calendar that we both update. So far, so good, but it’s not good at reminding me things. It’s good for keeping everything organized though- and setting it as the home page can help a lot.

  • Reply amy good house May 11, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I print out 6 months worth of calendars from the computer at a time. Everything goes on that thing – no matter if it work-related meetings, or personal appointments, birthday parties, or something my husband has to do. It’s all in one spot.

    Then I keep a side list of tasks that need to be done – phone calls I need to make, birthday presents to shop for, etc. I re-write the list about once a week, adding new tasks and omitting the things completed the week before. I slip this piece of paper into the booklet with my calendar pages.

    I would have a very hard time if I tried to do this with a smart phone. Much easier for me to keep track of by hand.

  • Reply Samantha May 11, 2011 at 12:17 am

    It’s funny that you’re blogging about this, I was just discussing the same thing with someone else. I’m going off to college next year, and I really need some way to figure out my schedule and get organized. Right now I’m running on a system of writing things down on my hands, bits of paper, and putting random reminders in my phone. It’s not terribly effective.
    And those planners are adorable.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

      If you can keep yourself mentally organized in college, Samantha, you’ll be set for life!

  • Reply karen May 11, 2011 at 12:21 am

    You are not ridiculous.

    I am also a write-it-down person. on paper. with a pen. It goes right out of my head otherwise.

    My life is not particularly complicated right now, so what works best for me is just a monthly calendar on the wall where I see it all day long. For more complicated times, I like lists on legal pads, too.

    Good luck finding something that works for you!

  • Reply Callista May 11, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Here, let me add to your lack of spare time, by leaving you a long freaking comment. World’s most considerate blog-reader? Right here folks!

    That being said, I use a planner. It’s makes all the difference in the world. It helps a lot with prioritizing. Just a word of advice: make sure that you take a good look at the layout of a planner before you buy it. It can be easy to buy a planner that doesn’t have a layout suited to your needs.

    I also greatly appreciated your ‘rearranging the canned goods’ comment. I, too, am one of those people. I think it’s genetic. My mom once had a meltdown about cleaning our super-messy house right before her sister came to town. So, what did she do? The most sensible thing she could think of, of course. She started by cleaning the INSIDES of the coat closets. She removed everything from them, became too overwhelmed, and walked away. My aunt arrived at the house, none of us where there, all of our closets were empty, and there was stuff strewn all over the house. She thought we’d been robbed.

    Thank you for attention to these unimportant matters. We now return to our regularly-scheduled broadcasting.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

      HAH! I love that story about your mom. That sounds like me, definitely!!

    • Anette Knudsen May 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      This comment made my day, mostly because I see myself in the same situation as your mother completely! Must have been such a great scene. Still laughing 🙂

  • Reply victoria May 11, 2011 at 12:29 am

    i rewrite them so they’re pretty, too. it’s sick.

    • Jules May 11, 2011 at 2:31 am

      I do that!

    • Monica May 11, 2011 at 7:49 am


    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Same here! I even do that with grocery lists. Oy vey!

    • Michelle May 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

      I rewrite lists when they look messy too. I actually was a first adopter of the very first palm pilot and thought my life would become super organized and quickly I realized I would enter something into it and then forget all about it. I would actually write the important stuff I needed to do/remember onto post-it notes and stick them inside the case of the palm pilot. basically rendering the pilot into a very expensive post-it note holder. now I just write lists out into a notebook (with check boxes). there is something extremely satisfying about checking that box. at work, i use Outlooks Tasks to enter projects but have to print it out and physically check the boxes. electronic box checking is not satisfying at all. and again, if the list is only on my computer, i forget to look at it. good luck to you!

  • Reply Amiechan May 11, 2011 at 12:53 am

    A new planner will not change your life. Sorry. It’s you who has to do that. I myself got help from when I could’nt do it. The site looks scary, but if you can look away from all the purplelishness there’s much to be learnt there. Good luck!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      I know people love that woman, but the intensely disorganized nature of her website makes me really, really uncomfortable. I can’t even look at the screen—it’s like total and utter chaos.

    • sRa May 25, 2011 at 1:50 am

      riiight? the chaos of the website makes me not trust her.

      i think the prettier the planner the more likely it is to work…so you should do great with one of those.

  • Reply Laura May 11, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I have an irrational attachment to my Calder-red Moleskine diary. It slips easily into even a small pocket and makes me happy to look at, which is key to actually remembering to use it.

    The size also ensures that I can’t become obsessive about list-making. The pages just won’t accommodate anything beyond the bare essentials, which means I don’t end up with epic chore and errand sagas that are too daunting to be attempted.

  • Reply Katrina May 11, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I bought a Moleskine a couple years ago and now I cannot live without it (I have even offered a reward for its return should it ever get lost). The yearlong ones with the days on one side and a note pages on the other are perfect. The notebooks you like look great, but be warned, if if doesn’t fit into every purse you own you’ll leave it at home one day and that will be the end of that. I now bring mine with me always, because even if I’m out for an evening I never know if I’ll have to remember something.

    And yes, I always carry a fine point black pen (sometimes two!).

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      “if if doesn’t fit into every purse you own you’ll leave it at home one day”

      You clearly haven’t seen my purse. I hesitate to call it a purse, actually—it’s more of a small suitcase. 😀

  • Reply seven grey sweaters May 11, 2011 at 1:31 am

    I was just reminded today of a book that really helped me: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr. Basic concept: quit worrying about time management and manage your energy levels instead.

    When I’m tired and overwhelmed is when I tend to start obsessively organizing the pantry. When I’m feeling energetic, I barely need a to-do list.

    Total game changer.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Yes, but you still need to have a way to keep track of doctor appointments that are 6 months away and deadlines for work, right?

      I’m not sure energy levels alone can address that kind of thing!

  • Reply Allison May 11, 2011 at 1:41 am

    I have: a small notebook with various lists “to do,” “shopping,” etc., and I cross out items as they get done (when I’m done with a page I cross the whole PAGE out, which is super satisfying). Sometimes I list them by date I want to do them, sometimes just in order as I realize they need doing. I also have a calendar I carry around with me, for things that occur at specific times and places. I do a lot of comparison of the two. And I use Google Calendar, because I like the email reminders.

    A planner won’t change your life, but it can help! I would forget every doctor’s appointment I ever made, or that I needed to go to the bank, or that at the grocery store I needed bread, if I didn’t write all that stuff down.

  • Reply Marisa May 11, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Oh, the lists! Yes, I’m definitely a list-maker. I use a Moleskine 12 Month Weekly planner, large, with the soft black cover. I have already pre-ordered my 2012 calendar, because I almost missed getting the 2011 one and had a bit of a freak-out. I use 4 different colors of Pilot G-2 pens (dark blue, lavender, light blue, and light green).

    Sunday night, I write down all my to-dos in the appropriate color (work, social, chores/errands, and exercise) on the right-hand side of the notebook (which is just lined paper). Then I slot things into the appropriate days on the calendar side (in the appropriate colors, natch). If I’m worried about getting things done on Monday, I take a post-it note and write out a little schedule for myself (like Jules’s list, mine has a lot of stuff on it that I wouldn’t ever forget). I stick the post-it into my notebook, and somehow, I’m able to get to sleep without stressing about what I have to do the next day.

    Although my system doesn’t necessarily help me get things done, it makes me feel like my life is in control, which is enormously beneficial to my mental health.

    Good luck, and thanks for letting me describe my system w/o feeling like a total nutjob.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      You don’t sound like a nutjob at all! You sound like you have it all quite together, actually. 🙂

  • Reply teresa May 11, 2011 at 2:01 am

    ohhhhh, i am so with you. down to the part where i actually did re-arrange my canned goods on sunday. i am not joking. i can send you a picture if you’d like. they look beautiful all lined up in my freshly wiped down kitchen cabinet. and i feel like i got soooooo much accomplished! never mind the onethousandandone orders i am behind on and the business that needs to be run. it really doesn’t matter, because that chutney i canned last summer looks goooood.

    that said, i think that finding list making tools that you find aesthetically pleasing enough to look forward to using on a daily basis are key. sure, you’ll move on to something that you like the looks of better in a few months, but who cares!? if it works for now, that means it works! these days, i’m all about multiple rhodia notebooks (large for general to-do/life lists, and a tall skinny one for my daily production list at work) and a good, fresh micron pen.

    and i second what jules said above about writing down *everything*, even the no-brain stuff like ‘wake up’ , ‘brush teeth’ and ‘make coffee’. the guaranteed success of crossing these things off your list every day just encourages good habits, and then the desire to cross more things off will motivate you to the next (bigger! better!) thing on the list! amazing extra cheater move? do something, and thennnnn write it down and cross it off the list!

    i’m off to clean out the coat closets! (such a good one! why didn’t i think of that before?!)

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Y’know, I think we should be proud of stuff like reorganizing cabinets and cleaning out coat closets, though. It IS important to feel like you’ve accomplished something and completed a task, even if it’s as mundane as washing the dishes. A million un-done projects can really start to make you feel like a failure!

  • Reply Julie May 11, 2011 at 2:06 am

    How sad is it that we, who can’t think or even move without writing it down first, have come to feel ashamed of our “dirty little secret”. All my life I thought there was something wrong with me, until I realized how many other very creative people are the same. Anyway, I used to use a Franklin Planner for years, but as I’m always trying to simplify, over the last 4-5 yrs. I’ve used this method which for the most part works, better when I sit down once a week, and review my calendar and lists:
    I buy a week-at-a-glance spiral bound calendar/planner (I think it’s by Mead, from Office Max, “At-A-Glance”) every year. I used to think I needed the clip binder that I could move things around and add things to, but they are bulky, and as my current one has two plastic pockets in the back, and a few pages for numbers and permanent notes, it works.
    All my project lists and to-dos are in their own project folders at work or home. Once a week or so, I sit down and review my project lists for each current project. From these I have an ongoing “To do soon” list that contains the next 1-5 to do’s from each project list. From this “To do soon” list I make a “To do this week”. This I rewrite every week. This list I fold and put in one of the planner pockets. Each day I look at this list and make a daily to-do on a post-it and stick it on the current calendar week in the planner, right under the current day. On that week page(s) are written only appointments or things I absolutely HAVE to do on a certain day. These are the priorities for that day, and what’s on the yellow post-it gets done in-between. That post-it gets re-written every day, as well as adding things to the day in the appointment/planner page. I also always carry a tear-off notepad and post-it pad for writing notes throughout the day that get reviewed and incorporated into an appropriate place later. I’m making it sound really complicated, but it’s really not, and it has worked pretty well. It definitely gets away from me sometimes, but only if I don’t take the time to review and rewrite. We can all get paralyzed trying to find a perfect system, but I find that if you just go with what you think might work, anything, you can tweak it if you see someone else doing something you think might be more efficient. I like reading time-management ideas, but now that I realize that all systems aren’t really all that different, I no longer feel I have to re-invent the wheel all the time. They all pretty much center round some form of project lists and “master” to-do’s and daily to-dos. In my case having the “to do soon” list to base a weekly list from is something I seem to always go back to. That list is the main thing I can look at and say “this is pretty much what’s on my plate at the moment”. Hope you don’t mind this being so long, but time-management isn’t for sissies!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      It’s such a relief to see that there are so many write-it-downers out there!

      I like that you re-write priorities every day. I few other people have mentioned that, too, and I think that’s key—it’s the act of carrying it over and having a fresh list that makes the difference.

      Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Charlie May 11, 2011 at 2:24 am

    If you do buy one, leave me a little note.. I’ll include an extra goodie for you. 🙂

  • Reply Julie May 11, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Looking at these “Tomorrow” planners, they look almost exactly like the At-A-Glance I use, only much prettier. I think I will get this for next year. Go for it. I think this might really work for you!

  • Reply fredlet May 11, 2011 at 2:59 am

    I’m a gadget junkie but i love lists on paper. (I was also an art major in college and in other classes the info didn’t stick unless i jotted notes or doodled. It drove my profs mad but i had 3.7 GPA so they left it alone 😉 )
    Now i use a weekly planner (Moleskine red) that lets me keep track of calendar items on the left side and to do lists on the right.
    Figure out what you like…even 3×5 cards with a binder clip is great (Hipster PDA)

  • Reply Jess May 11, 2011 at 3:15 am

    I spent about 2 weeks straight at the start of the year hunting down ‘the perfect’ planner. My Moleskine last year just wasnt’ quite the right size for this year’s problems and I finally found one that worked. The only problem is that you write things down hurriedly when they pop into you head and you run out of space on a certain day and then you start to use Post-It notes to add extra things and then the Post-It notes cover the existing lists and if you can’t see the list right in front of you then you forget that it’s there!

    Phew. Just came back from a really relaxing honeymoon and mentioned to my new husband that I might try and ditch the diary for a week…. hmm.. didn’t happen.

    Anyways, the best way to organise myself is to write stuff in the diary and then start each day with another more detailed list of Things To Do and then I get the joy of crossing off all the things I did that day (twice!)…. pretty bad procrastination technique, really….

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      My Post-It note situation at work used to be totally out of control. I’ve pared back a lot and have switched primarily to a steno pad, but it’s hard for me to get a sense of time and future dates from a single list.

      I love everyone’s “procrastination techniques”. 😉

  • Reply Kimberley May 11, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Lists! I love lists. I write many of them for many different subjects and themes (books to read, music to search for in used record stores, poems to find, big projects to do around the house and garden, and daily to-do lists, of course….) For the last 5 or six years, I have been using a “pocket” size lime green Filofax with a page per day format plus a month at a glance section (and other sections for the many idiosyncratic lists).

    For my daily lists, I write down the basics (stop by Post Office Box, Gym, call so-and-so about project, etc.) I also include specific things I am trying to accomplish that day or need to be done in a timely manner. (Pay NM bill, sign up for class at community college, write email to send out to clients about new artist, vacuum, write project estimate….)

    I am also one of the group who rewrites items not checked off to the next days list. Checking them off is satisfying, and writing them again on the next days list can feel stressful, as it did not get done, but it is a good reminder at he end or beginning of the day when you write the list.

    I write with a Micron 01 pen, black, which fits in the pen strap of the filofax and is one of my favorite pens to write with. I also like Niji Stylist pens. For other lists not in the filofax, I occasionally use one of my fountain pens.

    I also use a small “Pocket Briefcase” from Levenger that holds 3×5 cards, to write random lists, like “weekend to-do” lists that have all sorts of mundane tasks, as well as events or outings planned, just so I can get an idea of what I need to pack into a weekend. I can take the 3×5 card with me, or take the pocket briefcase with me in a small purse. It also serves to provide me with extra paper to write down info while I am out or leave a note for people.

    I also keep lists in the notes section on my phone. My blackberry recently committed cell-icide, and I lost my whole notes section. Names of wines, books, music, gift ideas for friends and family, absinthe brands, measurements and sizes for house related projects, many weird and personal categories–all gone. They were able to save and transfer my contact list, but not the notes. I am starting new ones on my i-phone, but it is a slow rebuild.

    Sooo…. TMI? I don’t know; I love lists, and they do help me get some things done. If nothing else, they help me organize my thoughts and ideas.

    Good luck finding a system. Don’t let yourself get paralyzed by picking the perfect system–pick SOMETHING, and if it doesn’t work, tweak it and tailor it to your quirks, or try a different one. Do things that go along with your natural way of working rather than trying to force yourself to use a system that feels unnatural. Think about size of the planner/system, whether you like/need/want to carry it around with you all the time, and if it will fit into your purse, and whether you need the “prompt” of seeing the planner to be able to pay attention to it. Hope this helps!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      My goodness! It sounds like you’ve really figured this out! I must say, though, that the thought of losing data on a smartphone makes me feel really, really itchy and bad. I’m sorry that happened to you!

  • Reply Aoife May 11, 2011 at 3:42 am

    I am a dreadful procrastinator and generally really badly organised but currently work 3 part-time jobs in 2 different cities so have to try to be on top of things. I have lists and lists and lists…my favourites are the ones where I write down things I’ve already done this week just so I can have the pleasure of immediately crossing them off…sad, yes…but satisfying all the same!

    Moleskin do a diary which has 7 days on the left-hand page of the spread and a ruled page on the right for notes, lists, doodles etc. I find it brilliant, keeps the lists close to dates and I don’t lose post-its and receipts like I used to. Also has a pocket in the back for loose bits and pieces. Every Monday I look at last week’s list and move all the stuff I didn’t do onto this week’s, only thing that works for me, if they ever stop making it I’m screwed!!

  • Reply rouge May 11, 2011 at 3:45 am

    I forget some things. I double-book others. I tried MS Outlook diary but I swore at the reminders and ignored them. Then I tried an actual paper diary but that didn’t work because I could not, not, not (on pain of death) make myself look at it. And besides, it weighed my bag down even further and then I walked even more lopsidedly than ever.

    My best system is to write things on my hand. Sometimes the list goes half way up my arm. It looks a mess – like a bad, smudged tattoo – and it can be embarrassing in public. Sometimes having it there impels me to do a few of the things before I get into the shower and lose the list. Sometimes I just write it on again when I’m clean and continue to ignore it.

    I don’t know what would work. I do know you’re not alone.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      I used to write stuff on my hand/arm, too!! I switched to Post-It notes in my pocket about 10 years ago, though, because the lists were getting crazy.

      It’s very Memento, isn’t it?

  • Reply Karoline May 11, 2011 at 4:14 am

    I write to-do lists. And as they tend to end up being looong and overwhelming, I had to come up with a trick to make them inspiring instead of daunting. So I always add a couple of tasks that I can cross off right away. Do laundry? Already did that – Check! Feed the cat? Yep, check!

    For me the getting started is the hardest part, and I guess this trick makes my brain think I’ve already started. I tried using the iCal on my macbook, but I’m a pen and paper girl like you, so I always come back to my little custom almanac from Love it!

    I say go for the pretty notebook 🙂

  • Reply Lucy May 11, 2011 at 4:32 am

    When I had an iphone I had the app ‘things’ which was amazing for someone who has to have a constantly updated list and gets frazzled when it gets too messy and has to be re-written. Swissmiss also put one out called ‘teux deux’, can’t go too wrong with an app made by a fellow graphic designer, surely? Now that I don’t have an iphone anymore, I keep a text edit note on my desktop called ‘to do’ and keep updating it. Moving things to the top, bolding things, etc. Also ‘tasks’ in gmail, make one called ‘house’, ‘work’ ‘to buy’ etc. I have lists all over the shop, but written ones don’t seem to cut it anymore.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      I know it might sound weird, but I actually have to physically WRITE the things I have to do down in order for them to seem real to me. It’s almost like anything typed/digital doesn’t exist or isn’t important. (I mean, I know it is…but it’s easier for me to mentally adjust and pretend they don’t exist.)

    • Lucy May 12, 2011 at 11:40 am

      Nope it doesn’t sound wierd, because I used to have to do the same. But it got too out of hand and I had so many lists and was constantly re-writing them…hence the digitalization…hope the poketo works for you! 😀

  • Reply Kellee May 11, 2011 at 4:40 am


    Seriously, it’s changed my life. I too need the physical process of writing something down to remember. In any case, for me, no app compares to this system.

    It looks a little bothersome at first, but once you get into it, it’s kind of incredible.

    Plus you get to buy beautiful squared-paper notebooks (I now rely on Whitelines and Miquelrius).

    Aesthetically, it look beautiful too. I think it may appeal to you.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      That’s pretty much what I do now, but the problem is that there are no DATES associated with anything—so it’s impossible for me to remember things like deadlines, doctor appointments, birthdays…I forget EVERYTHING. Immediately. It’s really the calendar/long-term planning aspect of it all that eludes me!

  • Reply Rach May 11, 2011 at 4:51 am

    OMNIFOCUS. TRUST ME. I use it CONSTANTLY and have it on every iDevice. It is completely and totally worth the money.

    Also, David Allen’s book is kind of maddening, but Getting Things Done really helped me a lot, I’m ashamed to say.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      I really need to write stuff down, though. Typing it and storing it digitally just does not work for me, alas!

  • Reply Rach May 11, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Did my comment get eaten or did it go to moderate? Either way, OMNIFOCUS!

  • Reply Helena May 11, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I use the “reminder function” in my cellphone! It´s not a smart phone…just a regular one where I write down what to remember… it makes a sound at the time I put in…I run to the phone thinking “Okey, what was it that I had to remember now?”

    Yesterdays reminders; congratulate my brother on his birthday, call XXX, do grocery-shopping and move the trashbin to the street so it will be emptied the next morning. Works for me, but if you have REALLY LONG lists…then this might not be the most practical choice! 🙂

  • Reply traceyb65 May 11, 2011 at 5:13 am

    the only way i cope is with what i call my BRAIN BOOK, a plain old spiro-bound A5 that i write EVERYTHING in. it was supposed to be purely for work, but it is also handy for the extra bits of shopping, scribbling household chores and service provider numbers — it even has a pocket in the front for popping in stray business cards and tear outs from magazines.

    and guess what? if i can’t remember someone’s number, or how much something was supposed to cost, it’s all there.

    do try it Anna! xt

  • Reply jenny May 11, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I regularly put systems into place – thing is, they need maintenance.
    Check out Communicatrix. She uses Get Things Done, whatever that is (I have to read those posts!).

    You seem to get a lot done from where I’m sitting!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      That’s because I only post when I’ve actually done something!

  • Reply paige @ MCC May 11, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I have a chalkboard where I write out my to do list for the week.

  • Reply Brick Window May 11, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Circa by Levenger. Best. System. Ever.

  • Reply Barb May 11, 2011 at 7:32 am

    I am also a writer-downer. What I like to use, though–and I really think the color palette would appeal to you–are composition books. I can designate calendar pages, make to do lists, jot down recipes or songs or whatever. It’s sort of free form but that’s okay because it’s all written down. 🙂

    • Barb May 11, 2011 at 7:35 am

      Oh –and you can get them with grid paper inside or plain old lined. I like the grids!

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      I need a little more structure, I think, but I do like composition books very much!

  • Reply Monica May 11, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I write lists (which I love doing) and then do things that are not on my list. Then I add them to the list so that I can cross something off. I guess it is self-sabotage. The one thing that has helped me get things done is to post about it on my blog. Kind of like your weekend to do’s. They seem to work for you.

  • Reply Nina May 11, 2011 at 8:07 am

    I write down everything too. Have a notebook and a small moleskin planner. Both are full of lists, notes and hundreds of post-it notes, ripped out pages of magazines etc. and need to be held shut with a rubber band. Somehow it works for me even thought it might not look organized to other people. Nothing better than crossing something I finished of a list 😉

  • Reply Kimberley Baudelaire May 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Wow, I am so glad you wrote this! I can absolutely sympathise with having to physically write things down. I decided this year to go digi and solely use my iphone as my diary. What a disaster. I trudged on for months and eventually realised that if it wasn’t written down on paper it was like the information didn’t even exist. Even WITH the alerts. WTF?

    I used to be super organised. I would buy a crisp new diary every year and was meticulous about keeping everything documented etc. Then I had a baby and the diary system totally went out the window.

    Right now I have a paper diary again (thank god) and post its. Argggh. Post its. My husband HATES the post it system. They seem to multiply and take over the kitchen bench. Then I ignore them. And add to them. And keep ignoring them.

    Overall between the post its, paper diary and iphone alerts I figure that the important stuff somehow manages to get through to me. If it doesn’t it’s not that important. Life will go on. I think we all put too much pressure on ourselves to do waaaay to much. It can’t all be done. Not by one person anyway.

    Try to slow down. Remember that there is NO END OF THE TO DO LIST! It’s just your life. Hmmm, having said that god I love lists.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      I’m so glad there are a few people that understand digital organizing and alerts just DO NOT WORK for some of us! It’s just too easy to ignore if the words weren’t formed by my hand.

  • Reply jennifer May 11, 2011 at 8:18 am

    so interesting!
    i only make lists when i have to figure out how to spend money. ie. i list garden projects or home remodeling projects or needed clothes for the kids, etc. then i can SEE what i should buy in which order so that i don’t run myself out of money before the mortgage payment is due. this is usually on the back of an envelope and then it disappears. i really only need to see it once.
    still, i like to buy little notebooks because they’re cute. my world is littered with them. all empty.

  • Reply Rachel B May 11, 2011 at 8:29 am

    After slogging through David Allen’s book (not the most riveting read), I started keeping lists organized by activity and that’s helped a lot. I have a list of things to do on the computer, errands, phone calls to make, outstanding work items, etc. That’s been great for “quick wins:” like when I have 30 minutes between meetings and can’t go into a task in depth.

    I like the spiral note card notebooks. I kept leaving my bulky planner at home or at the office, and then finding myself at the drugstore, struggling to remember if I needed shampoo AND toothpaste or just shampoo. Having a something cheap and portable works better for me.

  • Reply kelley May 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I’ve tried a lot of formats over the years and standard pen & paper is the only thing that really works for me. I’ve tried a million different computer and smartphone apps, teuxdeux, notetaker, google tasks you name it, and some of them are great they don’t work for me so I tend to fall back on the Hipster PDA. I also buy a cheap dollar store yearly calendar to just jot down meetings, bill due dates and the like.

    Honestly depending on how crazy busy things get at any given point I’ve been known to just resort to legal pad sized lists and for the super insane projects or larger scale things (wedding, garden planning, whole house reno) I’ll sometimes type everything up with bullet points just so I can more easily move around things to prioritize. But those always get printed out and toted around so I can get the satisfaction of actually crossing things out.

  • Reply Loren May 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I have a cheap monthly planner from Target that I keep in my purse for big things like ‘dinner with family’ & ‘So&So’s Wedding’.
    I also use a google-docs spreadsheets for more complicated projects, weekend to-do lists, and my budget. I know they probably aren’t for everyone but it is free, accessible to me anywhere I have a computer (since I switch from Mac at home to a PC at work), and I don’t use it but there are plenty of templates designed to print out.

  • Reply Ann May 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I think this post hit a nerve for a lot of people. First, let me say that I’m kind of astounded by how much you get done. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and think a good first step is to give yourself a break….maybe start keeping track of accomplishments as a gentle reminder of ….well…accomplishments! You are a seriously accomplished person.

    I sustained a mild traumatic brain injury a few years ago. Prior to that, I kept everything in my brain. I didn’t need lists or reminders. I was just lucky that way that I had a brain that was really good at keeping details straight and organized. Now, I have to use a back up plan because although I’m completely healed…any deviation like not getting all the sleep i require or just being stressed about something…throws me off and I start forgetting things. I have tried various methods and now have found the following to work the best for me:

    I log anything I need to remember like appointments or bill paying, etc into my google calendar with an alert set up on my phone. If I sense I’m forgetting something, I can review the google tasks from my laptop or my phone.

    I keep a “to do” list on a white board that is not attached to the wall so i can move it around from the kitchen to the entryway to hiding it when people are over (thereby removing the unattractiveness of that method! ha.)

    If I have a special project I need to get done like planning a vacation, preparing for Christmas, getting ready for an art show….I use scrap 8×10 paper on a clip board. The clipboard fits in my courier bag and keeps all sorts of things : maps, lists, whatever right at hand and when I’m done with the project the paper goes in recycling and I don’t have to continue to carry it around the way i would if i used the daily planner method (which i tried but didn’t work for me).

    I’m not super gadgety. I don’t own tv or game system or anything like that ; but, I have found my android smartphone to be one of the most valuable tools for my particular circumstances. I don’t carry a purse everyday; so, just having that phone in my pocket lets me have pretty much all i need at my fingertips. I can even snap a photo of my white board if i need to. I also have trouble with directions now and having the gps on my phone has saved my butt a few times.

    And mostly, I have developed a ton of compassion for myself and I have a better ability to weed through and choose the most important things and just let the rest be. Not that those things will never get done; but, its not the end of the world if it takes longer than i think.

    I’m super visual as it seems many of the responders are and I think thats why the white board works for me…even when the things on there are redundancies from my google calendar. Just SEEING them plants a memory.

    Good luck in your search and be sure to keep track of your accomplishments in addition to your looming To Do list!

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      Ann, I have brain issues too, and I second-guess my memory a lot because of it, too. Changing my routine or throwing my sleep schedule off really affects my memory a lot. I know where you’re coming from!

  • Reply nicolezh May 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I use a big black moleskine where everyday has its own page to write down all the stuff I have to do at work and in my private life. I found out that two planners (one for the office, one for all the other stuff) just don’t work as I tend to forget dates and overbook myself. If I get a date via email I transfer it at once into the moleskine. If someone meets me sans the big black magic book and asks for a date I tell people to wait untill I put it in the moleskine and confirm the appointment. For me it only works this way. I can never use more devices than than one, everything else confuses me.
    My cell phone is only used for phoning and collecting telephone numbers (I use two simcards, as I work in Switzerland and live in Germany but one phone with to card slots where all numbers are collected), I force myself not to use the calendar and stick to the moleskine.

  • Reply ModFruGal May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Some of us are just wired this way. In school, I recopied ALL my notes at night so they were neatly written and tidied up while fresh in my mind…and committed to memory MUCH better! I had a Filofax (Geez, do they even make those anymore? I’m old) but 2 kids later with 2 school schedules, I couldn’t keep up. Now, iCal is my weapon of choice. I still try to hand write to do lists, but they get moved or covered up by someone’s homework etc.. so not only do I schedule even the DUMBEST stuff on an alarm on my iCal, I use the “to do lists” on there too. The pop-up widows of the iCal reminders save me many times a week. Before I had a smartphone to sync it to, I just printed it out and put it in my purse and scribbled notes on it. Good luck, I know how hard it can be to get a handle on these things.

  • Reply Thea May 11, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I try to implement some of the advice I find on, especially these:

    I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it!

  • Reply Krysta May 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I’m a total writer-downer. I don’t think it’s necessarily because I will forget to do things if they aren’t written down, but more becuase it gives me a sense of control. Also crossing things off a to-do-list is so satisfying!

    I use a Moleskin weekly planner that has days on the left and an open lined page on the right. I have a special pen and a specific set of highlighters (becuase, yes, I color code certain appointments).

    I usually just keep track of important meetings/appointments and then have a master weekly to-do list that I break into smaller daily lists. I use the weekly note page to keep track of important notes like confirmation numbers, or even grocery shopping lists. If I happen to make a list on a post-it I just stick the post-it in the planner.

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      Now I want color-coded highlighters, too!

  • Reply Kathy May 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I have just accepted that I’m all over the place and that there isn’t a system out there that works for me other than over-planning, duplicate lists, and extra coffee. Oh, and an extra thin black sharpie… feels satisfying to write things down with those! 🙂

    If you do in fact find an answer though, please share. All ears!

  • Reply Jeanne May 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

    One hyphenated word: Post-its! I have them all over. And little pieces of paper with lists on my kitchen counter and in my purse and car. And I add items to-do for the month in the little “notes” section on a monthly calendar grid.

    I also use a small spiral notebook (9.5 x 6) at work to keep track of phone calls, meetings and lists. At the end of the day I will make a list on a new page of what I need to do the next day – so when I come into work in the morning I can get right on task. Well, after I check your blog. haha.

  • Reply Nina May 11, 2011 at 9:50 am

    No matter what system you choose, you have to stick with it, but that’s as hard as it gets, fortunately. My suggestion, if you’re into paper (notebook, paper calender, whatever) and pen is to keep a list of two types of projects; Projects and Someday/Maybe. People who know Getting Things Done by David Allen recognize this. Everything that is occupying your mind goes into either list. Projects contains a list of current things to do that are both work and private-life related, whereas Someday/Maybe obviously lists ideas for the future.

    Assign Next Actions (tasks that are the logical next steps of your Projects) for each day and don’t overdo it. It’s been concluded in many places around the internet that people usually don’t succeed with too many extra tasks alongside a normal day, about three to five if they are large/time-consuming enough, but this of course depends entirely on your day and your job. Examples could be: do tax returns, take cat to vet, buy notebook; it’s easy to see that these usually take longer than we expect.

    My lists of Next actions have the following names to make it easy for me to see what I can do where: @Computer, @Telephone, @Home, @Outside (out and about, in town, etc.). If you have an office elsewhere, you can add @Work to your lists. I have the same labels in Gmail for ongoing Projects, too, when they are not archived for Reference yet.

    I work electronically, not with paper and pen, but this doesn’t have any consequence. I keep the same lists that are possible to maintain with paper and pen, too. For those interested, I recommend Bento (I don’t work for them but love their product anyway), which I have as app on my iPod touch and software on my desktop Mac.

    There’s more to GTD, but this is the short version. I don’t follow it religiously, but have tweaked it to fit my particular needs. Oh, and Allen doesn’t talk about time management, because according to him you can’t manage time 🙂 I like this.

    Good luck!

    • Nina May 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

      Just for clarification; Projects are outside the calendar part of a notebook, whereas Next actions are the tasks recorded into the calendar, either time-specific (an appointment for instance) or date-specific (doesn’t matter when during that day but within the specific date) actions. I also should have given an example of a Project: kitchen renovation, whereas Next action could be: do research on ovens.

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Yes, EVERYTHING takes longer than we expect, and that’s a huge problem of mine. I imagine myself being able to get done so much more than is humanly possible, so when I come up short, I get frustrated. I suppose it IS true that you can’t manage time!

  • Reply Z May 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Love this post. I swoon over organization/daily to-do’s/list-making, etc.

    True story: when I was in between jobs (thanks layoff!) and bored and couldn’t deal with resume polishing and headhunters any more I’d browse Flickr for people’s photos of their to-do lists. Weird, right?! But, I love seeing how people organize their stuff.

    As for my methods, probably wouldn’t work well for you since it requires a smartphone, but I am a serious, hardcore user of all things Google and I use the Google Calendar (with separate calendars for family stuff, personal stuff, fitness, etc) and use it religiously. It syncs to my BlackBerry so I always know what’s coming up and where I have to be even if I’m not at my computer. I also use Remember the Milk for the reminders like, write thank you cards, etc. It sends me reminder emails and I can also see the list on my iGoogle homepage.

    I’m actually trying to hand write stuff more, because there really is nothing better than scratching something off, BUT, despite a sleek little notebook and my favorite pen (Pilot G2s), I have yet to use it consistently.

  • Reply Fritz May 11, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I like to use a big white erase board like Dr. House

    Things are kept fluid so that they can be easily erased and then reformatted

    It does help

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      Tricky to bring a white board on the subway, though. 😀

    • erica May 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      You need a collapsable one for taking in your suitcase (er, purse) everyday. Also, I would love to see a picture of what’s in your bag daily.

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      I always want to do one of those posts, but then I look at the contents of my bag!! It’s not cute in there, sadly, and I refuse to curate. 😉

  • Reply Kim at Yellow Brick Home May 11, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Regarding the canned goods, you and me both. The most minute details become dire during times of insane workloads.

  • Reply L May 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

    You are neither nutso nor alone.

    For what it’s worth (after the huge line of excellent comments above), I have the same problem. My only salvation is to be extremely routinized (get up, walk dog, eat breakfast, etc. etc. 7/365) and to write things down in a little pocket calendar (for advance planning) and an index card (for the day). Both fit easily in my purse, I can cross things off the index card as they are done, transfer the un-done to a new card while I drink my morning coffee, and throw the old one away.

    My sweetie, on the other hand, takes medication for adult ADHD and never seems to need a list. Hmmmmmm.

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Yes, I do realize that nearly everyone who has commented on this post might be a contender for ADHD treatment!! There are many of us out there. 😉

  • Reply Justine May 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I use mind mapping usually. That way instead of a list that for some reason is more overwhelming to me than anything else, I draw it out and list things of “Life” “School” and “Work” branches then each project individually like- “Life>Clean, Decorate etc” or “Work>Freelance, Website, Invitations” and go even further to say “Work>Freelance>Client” and cross things off as I accomplish them.

    Hope that helps!

  • Reply Fiona May 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I actually saw your tweet about this because I was sitting down to procrastinate, so I wouldn’t have to make a phone call apologising for not turning up for a meeting, an appointment I’ve no recollection of having been made. Anyway, phone call and apology made. Ugh. I keep a diary, sure, then I lose the diary. I make arrangements for say, Thursday, knowing full well in another part of my brain that I’ve an appointment that day. And I swear my new phone is haunted because it’s not keeping reminders I know I made. New method, starting tomorrow, is to buy a diary I never keep anywhere but my bag. Good to know I’m not alone 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      See, I keep the diary with me and then forget it exists. I’m thinking buying one in bright, screaming yellow will help!

  • Reply erin lang norris May 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I feel you on this one. Big time. I am great at consolidating boxes of pasta in my cabinets and things like that…but when it comes to things that HAVE to be done, haha, I am the queen of procrastination.

    And I write and re-write my grocery lists.

    I recently got a smart phone, and while it has enhanced my life in so many ways, I just can’t get down with the calendar feature. I need to pen things into a planner. I like to be able to cross things off, write “hang out with ____” and “taco tuesdays start today!” and look at the whole month when scheduling appointments.

    I had the previous version of this planner, and I loved it. Worked really well for me. Right now I’m carrying a regular mini calendar in my bag, but I would like to go back to the planner.

  • Reply Lori E. May 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    From one procrastinator to another (or should it be about 100 others!), the thing that helped me the most was something I read in a book… My apologies to the author for the butchering of her writing but it was something like “it takes as much energy to procrastinate about doing something as it does to actually do it.” Basically, procrastinating causes much stress. Now, does this mean I don’t procrastinate? No!!! A thousand times no!!!! But it has helped me at times to keep a little more focus on getting the task at hand done.

  • Reply Lynda May 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I’m another who needs things to be handwritten: electronic reminders/to do lists are no use to me at all. My sister gave me a Filofax for my birthday and it’s really helped me to feel more organised (although it hasn’t done much for my procrastination – should be putting together a column right now!)

    For me, being able to have everything in one place is key, because I used to have several notebooks and mini journals and diaries and about a billion Post It notes on the go at any one time and would just feel totally overwhelmed.

    The Filofax suits me since urgent or day-to-day tasks and reminders, appointments etc go in the diary portion, and things I’d like to do at some future point and ideas for work/stories etc get jotted down in the notes section on colour-coded pages depending on topic.

    There are also “To Do” list pages, complete with blank tick boxes at the end of each line 😉

  • Reply sara May 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    anna, there are a billion comments here already, but i would recommend a skinny little muji notebook. i use mine to write stuff down and i stay pretty organized.

  • Reply erica May 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I love using the teux deux app from swiss miss. I can use it on my iphone and my computer. I mostly use it for small daily tasks. I also use the calendar in my phone to keep track of birthdays and appointments. Aside from that, I carry a small clairefontaine notebook to jot stuff down. And I have to use pilot hi-tec 0.5 pens. It’s worth it to get the japanese version of those pens. Then I will write anything down.

  • Reply Adel May 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    “it’s super important that I rearrange my canned goods RIGHT NOW OR ELSE.” wow, I am the exact same way. In my case, it’s caused by ADD; I have the strangest impulsive hyperfocus and an innate inability to gauge and manage time constraints. I am perpetually late. My friends know and understand this, but doctors and job interviews are not so forgiving, lol. Now that I have two kids, I’m actually getting BETTER at managing time, and figuring out how to be ON TIME (seems counter-intuitive, but its happening).

    Also, this is hilariously appropriate:
    Hyperbole and a Half: This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult

  • Reply jbhat May 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I will be of no help to you, because I suffer from the same affliction. There is probably no cure, but the notebooks are pretty cute and might make you feel slightly better. : )


  • Reply Liz May 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Those planners look beautiful and have just what I need…a big blank box with lots of room to write! I’m too lazy to faux-purchase it to see the shipping fee. Is it really bad?

  • Reply Kim Kay May 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I’m a big fan of the Little Otsu Weekly Planner. I buy one every year. I love the space for weekly lists, daily lists, books to read, movies to see….. It’s free form enough that I can get in everything I need to and structured enough to motivate me to write it all down.

  • Reply Cynthia May 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Refrigerator magnets! I take a calendar (one of the freebies that our bank gives away) and tear out the months (the pictures for these are usually awful). Each day has a blank square that is big enought to write in. Then I get those refrigerator magnets that have a clip on them and I post six months of calendar pages to the side of my fridge. If I make post it lists then I almost always lose them. Great blog, Anna!

  • Reply Emily May 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Buy the planner. It will take a while to get out of the habit of using receipts and post-it notes, so just stick them inside the planner after you make them, and take a few minutes on a regular schedule (every night, every Wednesday, whatever) to transcribe everything to your new planner system. If you don’t like the planner, add “try a new planner” to your list. No harm done. Your well-being is more than worth the cost of a few planners.

    For procrastination, I try to recognize when I’m doing it, and then think to myself – “I have an overwhelming urge to rearrange my canned goods because I don’t want to be doing my taxes. That is okay. I’m going to spend 1 hour rearranging my canned goods, feel good about my success, take a short break, and commit to starting my taxes.” Every part of this thought is important – recognizing the issue, accepting it, setting a timeframe for what I feel like doing, really enjoying doing it, taking a break, keeping the break short, and then starting the big task.

    Not “doing” or “finishing” – just “starting”. Once I start on something I’ve been avoiding, it’s a lot easier to keep going; but the idea of having to complete the whole project makes it feel overwhelming to get started. Acknowledging and accepting the issue enables me to really feel success about the canned goods, and I am better able to face the big task because I allowed myself to do what I wanted instead of feeling like I was wrong the whole time.

    Thinking it out to myself generally works for me, but it’s even more effective if you say it to someone else.

    • Lisa May 18, 2011 at 7:42 am

      I LOVE that idea of “starting”. It just made me more relaxed just thinking about it, and it’s so true, once you start, so much easier to keep going.

  • Reply melani rae May 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I rely HEAVILY on others for reminders (family, friends) They know I’m shit at organizing dates, or remembering shit, so they take pity on me. I have a moleskin diary that I bought this year and it’s been pretty helpful, but even then sometimes I write down the wrong stuff, so even still, I’m a mess.

    Embrace it. It’s the only way….

  • Reply Anonymous May 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Timers are also helpful for getting through dreaded tasks that tend to be put off. Setting the timer to devote 30 minutes to the elephant in the room often has me setting it for another 30 to get it finished, but knowing mentally that I’m allowed to quit when the time is up somehow makes it easier to digest.

  • Reply FWDstore May 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I use paper and and yahoo notepad. B/t the two I stay relatively organized. I’m always rewriting my lists though. Probably not the most efficient!

  • Reply Nat May 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I’m not sure about lists and whether they work, but I can absolutely realte to the fact that i LOVE to write with a nice pen on nice paper. And that makes making lists so so so enjoyable.

    I also put off writing… and cleaning up has always been the first thing I do when I need to do some soft of analytical work/project, especially in school. If the house is clean, I feel I can organize my ideas better, and there’s nothing grabbing at my attention.

    I’m going to try getting a notebook and putting everything there. Sometimes I just have to get over the fact that not every page will look pretty, and just carry on list making.

    PS> technology does not work. It works wonderfully for my hubby, but I just can’t make it work for me.

  • Reply AbraCat May 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    It’s strange to me that you’re having trouble getting things done, since I’ve recently started following your example of making to-do lists, and it’s helped me finally start getting things done. There’s something very satisfying about crossing something off a list…

  • Reply bekah May 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I have a giant vintage door turned chalkboard in my kitchen. I write everything down, even the mundane stuff (I have a goldfish memory) and, like you, love to cross things off! Also because it says things like ‘scoop cat poop’ and is visable to guests I tend to work my way through it faster.

    • Anna @ D16 May 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Hahaha, I’m always telling my friend here at work that I have the memory of a goldfish. 😀

  • Reply Melanie Richards May 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I have a horrible time with the kind of prioritizing you speak of, and right now am struggling with lack of focus. I had one of those tiny red Moleskine planners, which was working great until I lost it…oops. Anyway, it has space on the left for daily tasks, and just lined paper on the right for notes, or to-do lists that aren’t bound to a day. I find that having both lists—concrete, scheduled events, and more floating-in-plasma lists—is freeing.

  • Reply Mamma Biscuit May 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    You are the most productive person I have ever known. The idea that you need advice on how to keep track makes me feel like a total mess LOL Honestly, I just have Tommy keep track of my social calendar, I keep a mental list of what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis (I physically cannot rest until I have completed it all and I secretly love paying bills, balancing a check book, shredding documents, vacuuming and Windexing every goddamn surface in my apartment) …….the rest I leave up to Mamma Biscuit—she keeps track of my own food intake as well as her own!

    On a similar note, I have a friend who keeps a checklist on a chalk board leaning against his wall—I love how visible it is—especially when “have sex” is on the list—second to last!!
    Mamma Biscuit

  • Reply mommy May 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I just tried re-arranging my canned goods, but it did nothing for me. Now I’m worried that I’m not normal (ahem) like the rest of you.

    Yes, it’s true that Anna always had to complete tasks a certain way. As a kid she was the most organized AND disorganized at the same time. For example, once she left a pile of her clothes in a heap on the floor right between two rooms, so that it was impossible to go through without stepping over them. I left it there just to see how long it would take before she would notice. I think it was a week! At the same time, she might have a project to complete for school. This would have to be perfectly executed and she would never go to bed until finished, even if it wasn’t due the next day.

    When she was a kid, the important stuff got done while the rest was simply ignored. Now apparently everything is equally important. I don’t care if she uses a pretty notebook or an old scrap of paper as long as it says “Call Mommy”! : )

    • Anna @ D16 May 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      AAAWWWWWWWWW!!!! I love you. 🙂

  • Reply Grace May 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I could go on forever and ever about my likes and dislikes when it comes to planners. I’m seriously restraining myself here. I used to make my own planners out of blank notebooks since I could never find the perfect one. I liked them b/c they would have a ton of blank pages for non-calender items like lists, sketches, etc. I mainly used pencil b/c I prefer being able to erase things, but I had mini highlighters that I used to mark certain due dates, appointments, and meetings. I also used mini Muji post-its to highlight certain days. I never got around to making a planner for this year so I’m currently using a free monthly planner that doesn’t have any blank pages. I always have a small Field Notes notebook in my bag for writing short notes down. At home it’s a totally different story. My computer and mirror are so overrun by post-its that the the post-its have become meaningless. I also have so many random scraps of paper w/ scribbled notes and ideas that I can’t bear to throw out.

    Have you considered designing your own planner? I don’t necessarily mean a full-on planner w/ unique pages, but perhaps just open-dated pages. That way you could really customize it to suit your needs. I was thinking of doing that and getting it bound at Kinko’s or Staples but I’m assuming you have may access to more resources for a similar project.

  • Reply Vita May 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Ha this post has gone viral…it’s an universal problem 🙂

    I’m a first-year college student so I pretty much have to relearn time management and scheduling.

    As of now, I draw out calendars with 2 inch by 2 inch boxes for each date and fill out assignments due dates, exam dates, etc. when I get my syllabus for a class. I hang two months at a time on my wall and fill in stuff (like library due dates) as the days pass. Helps me keep days in perspective in the short-run and long-run.

    This year, I got a free appointment book where the format is kind of similar to this:
    (but the time slots are one hour intervals, not 15-minute ones because that’s just insane!) and I don’t think anyone really mentioned this, but I color in the rectangles for the hours for things I have to do (ex. attend a class, the rectangles from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. would be colored in) as well as transportation time and other things that I do…

    I find it helpful as a visual reminder of stuff I have to do @ a certain time as well as a visual of how much hours I have in a day to do other stuff. I color in a whole week of scheduled commitments at one time while looking at my calendar to see if I have to block out times to do assignments or something and in the boxes left over/not colored in (“free time”), I might write suggestions to do during that hour. I also write lists on the side margins of the book.

    Granted I have slip-ups and still procrastinate frequently (by cleaning lol), it made some experiences in school less hectic.

    I look forward to reading other people’s suggestions as well as what you decide to do/try.

  • Reply Melissa May 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I’ve tried all different ways…mobile phone reminders, diaries, scraps of paper but I have found the best way for me to remember the long term stuff is by using a calender. I bought one which was all white boxes (not lots of graphics) and spent time putting in everything I needed to do for the year ahead. I like it because it is easy to read – and to see where you need to be etc – and other people in the family can see it too.

  • Reply Tory May 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Do you tend to be a perfectionist? Sometimes that can really get in the way of getting tasks done. Deep down there is the worry that the way you complete the task won’t live up to your expectation. So rather than letting yourself down you re-arrange everything and do those things that you are really good at but don’t necessarily need to be done RIGHT now.

    As for me, I’m a TO DO list writer. I keep a small spiral bound notebook and each week gets a list broken down by category: errands, housework, excercise, keeping in touch, reading + watching, crafting, cooking, etc. It’s really important to me that I keep a healthy dose of things I WANT to do alongside the things I have to do. Otherwise I feel like every waking minute is spent as “business” and that makes me feel really unbalanced!

  • Reply Emily May 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    It took me a while to figure this out, but because I am a visual learner and process most things visually, I can’t have a planner that closes. Which is to say, it has to be visible at all times. At work, that means a big ass white board. At home, its a large calendar that hangs on the fridge. Now you might think – no I don’t want to clutter the fridge. The key is that its in a high traffic area that you actually spend time in (office at work, kitchen at home). Not in the hallway, not in your bedroom, not some place that looks nice but someplace that makes the at-eye-level visual reminder actually function to remind you of things.

    Works for me, may work for you.

  • Reply Mimi May 11, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I swear you could have been talking about me I get paralyzed because there are so many things I need to do, but often instead of doing them. I do something completely not pressing. I laughed at the comment about above about the mom who cleaned out the closets instead of cleaning the house, that is so me.
    I am very much a list person, because I can’t remember a darn thing. Also I have a slight obsession with office supplies, namely paper, pens etc. My current list writing technique I actually stole from Heidi Klum, in an interview she showed her notebook with her to-do list. So I have this red notebook (originally used a comp book) I bought from Borders and it’s my to-do list, I date the page and write to do lists and highlight completed items and carry forward incomplete items I also jot websites, recipes and other random things in the book. I also put doctor appts in my iphone for the alerts and I have a moleskine small calendar (comes in a small 12 book set with 1 book for each month and every month a different color. I used that for my future dates and appointments, each day when I make my list I check my calendar and add the appointments to the to-do list, I need the pleasure of crossing off things.
    I love this post and I am glad I am not alone.

  • Reply Catherine May 11, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    You must have struck a chord with people, there are >100 comments above me. Consequently, I might be repeating someone else … make a Hipster PDA. It doesn’t matter what system you use, at long as you will use it. The pretty calendar/notebook doesn’t matter if you don’t make it your master calendar. Maybe you can do a wall calendar in each home for those dates far from now and a binder clip of notecards for the near future. This would require some synchronization occasionally, making the notecards match up to the wall calendars with the future dates.

  • Reply Jo May 12, 2011 at 12:52 am

    I like the planners with one page per day. Not every day has writing on it. Some days have weird random things written in them. I think May 12 last year had my health insurance information. I kept having to go back to it every time I went to the doctor. Some days had lists, some didn’t. The day my daughter was conceived last year has a big smiling sun on it. (TMI?) Last year I used the Moleskine notebook, which I thought was just the right size.
    I had a Smemoranda notebook ( when I was studying in Italy, and it was my favorite planner ever. I liked it because I thought the design was cool, but it was a little bit messy, too. It didn’t feel too precious to use, and I loved writing all kinds of stuff in it, and sticky notes all in the pages never seemed out of place. I once found one in the States, but I don’t remember where.
    My favorite organizational mantra: procrastination can be an effective time-management tool.

  • Reply Brett Alderman May 12, 2011 at 12:55 am

    I live and die by writing things down. I’m a list making machine. I even draw little check boxes next to each task.

    I too live without a smart phone so I keep a Field Notes brand notebook in my back pocket at all times. It is an infinitely useful tool for organizing my scatter-brained self. The reason I use their books are because of the size. Moleskine makes a similarly sized one that I’ve not tried yet.

    I never leave the house without two pens and a Sharpie marker. Not even driving my daughter to school. It’s borderline compulsive, I know, but I never have to bum a pen or paper from anyone because I’m always prepared.

  • Reply annie May 12, 2011 at 12:58 am

    i’m just so glad to see so many people with the same problems i have. i thought i was the only one! every day, it’s a constant battle for me, but if i don’t make a list that i physically write, i am lost. i drift. i procrastinate. i rely on a moleskine (agree on the bad paper comment above, but there are some with thicker paper but you have to look for them). this is the only system that works for me and i started it during a time of intense personal stress. it was the only thing that got me through (besides ice cream and good friends, of course). on sunday nights, i make out a list, that i divide into sections for “personal” “home” “work” and “other”. then i write down everything i can think of. as i complete the tasks, i write “done” next to it on the page (more satisfying than ice cream). it has gotten me through some really bad times. i bring my moleskines everywhere and have a stack of about a dozen that date back to around 2005.

  • Reply Simone May 12, 2011 at 5:30 am

    I have the same thing. I make lists on the back of empty A5-envelopes because I like the thickness of the paper. I make three columns, one household things, one with things that need to be done for work or stuff that needs to be organised for family/ house, and the last column is for creative undertakings and people I need to phone.
    After completing about 75% of the list I usually lose it and make a new one. I like the way a list eventually looks with all it’s tasks striped off (I use a fat black marker). It becomes a very graphic thing.
    There is a great book by Stephen Covey: 7 habits of highly effective people about how to arrange and discern the things you need to do.

  • Reply Gwen May 12, 2011 at 9:48 am

    I have started using the calender feature on my phone (I don’t have a smartphone but I think all phones have calenders) It has been a total lifesaver and so much easier than remembering to carry around a planner!

  • Reply Laurie May 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

    With all those that rewrite lists I feel like I’m the only freak that doesn’t like to mess up a notebook. I think I misspelled a city name in my first moleskine a half-dozen years ago and I still cringe. Also my handwriting!

    I have no such guilt with the 3×5 cards attached with a binder clip (as Fredlet mentioned). I can have more than one list, revise as necessary and carry it no problem. I read David Allen’s GTD when I adopted this method, (and by read I mean back cover, front matter and chapters 1, maybe 2? you know until I thought, “I’ve got this”) anyway it still works enough for me.

    Also the big, up high white board is also very satisfying and I just take a picture with my phone when I need to take it with me. This works well for household shared shopping lists/to dos and allows guests to pat themselves on the back for adding strange or hated ingredients stealthily to your shopping list.

    Thanks for this post, so relatable, Peggy’s sudden compulsions are mine!

  • Reply vginiafille May 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I wasn’t going to recommend another site, but since so many people have recommended specific planners, I will. A creative friend of mine swears by Charlie Gilkey’s planners – his website is productive flourishing. You can download them free and try them out. I liked them as a starting point, and agree with the person who suggests you make your own. (I did this, and it was a nice procrastination tool, so a two-fer one activity!)

  • Reply jessica//miniaturerhino May 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    hi! i’m the same way! the more projects I take on the stress piles on too and I find my coping mechanism is to procrastinate (ahem, I’m reading your blog & not working right now!) and finding creative distractions, like baking. So recently I went to an Etsy workshop- one of the speakers talked a bit about time management and I’ve been using this system and it’s been helping me. Make a daily to-do list that’s manageable, only 6 tasks, and make sure that those task are top priorities, things that will make you feel the best about completing them. Stick to the list. I wrote more on my blog & linked the video of the talk too if you wanna see (not trying to spam you with a link, I swear! Just thought it might be helpful from one procrastinator to another….

  • Reply Sally May 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Hey! There is nothing wrong with you – lots of people learn by writing things down. Just work on your sleep. You get a ton of things done. Be easy on yourself.

  • Reply Etet May 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Post-its beautified and organised…:

  • Reply Reva May 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I definitely haven’t found any amazing methods, and I am a chronic dilly dallier, but there are a couple simple things I do that help and have withstood the test of time. I have a notepad that I use to make running to-do lists for things to do over the weekend, to focus myself on what to do over the next couple days. I usually only complete about a third of the list. 😛 but it makes me feel better, and unlike a lot of planners and “systems,” it doesn’t take longer to do than the actual tasks on the list. For longer-term planning, I use google docs, which I share w/ the boy.

    Mostly, I just really like that you wrote this post, because I saw myself in it. Thank you!!

  • Reply Becky May 12, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I own a planner. An old-school planner. I love the Mead softcover ones where you slide a photo in the cover, because they’re the perfect size, not fat so they fit easier in my purse, and have tons of writing space in their weekly views for making to-do lists. If I don’t use that, I use a piece of blank paper. Nothing fancy. I also own some erasable pens from Staples (remember when erasable pens sucked? no longer!) which helps keep me neat.

    I do boxes and write down the tasks, and put an x in the box when I’m done. I don’t do it every day, but I do it really often. Lists help me stress less because everything is out of my brain and onto the paper. It takes some practice to consistently write things down but once you’ve done it for a few days you really start to turn to it naturally when you have a lot to do. Anyway, I doubt any of this helped but I just wanted to say good luck!

  • Reply Jen May 13, 2011 at 3:37 am

    I am a definite write-it-down person. Fun to learn that I am not alone. The treat, for me, is that I love to write (print) more than anything. My solution to the problem you discuss is in the joy of the writing (printing) itself. I use (exclusively) the Pigma Micron 005 in black and Sepia. These pens require commitment to the formation of each letter. You can include a tidy, artful box next to the ‘to do’ or draw an impressive 005 line right through the center of a completed task and the list starts to take on new texture and artfulness. This whole process lends itself to a slow mover, careful printer. The 005 does not like to move too quickly. I make on-going lists in a small Moleskin. One Moleskin per year makes for interesting documentation… a year in the life sort of thing. Best of luck to you.

  • Reply Emily May 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    List maker, for sure. Need a planner with a weekly DPS as well as month-view calendars. I do an OK job of keeping track of appointments, etc but my to do lists, at home and at work, need some assistance. Work is all over the place, constant interruptions, so I end up flagging emails in Entourage/Outlook and then trying to go back a couple of times a day, but I occasionally drop the ball and kick myself for it.

    At home, projects seem to linger for months and months. I think we all feel overbooked and overworked and like there’s something(s) – time, money, a need for relaxation, unexpected obligations, expected obligations – getting in the way of doing all we’d like to do. One positive influence for me: I took a couple of Aby Garvey’s classes at Simplify 101, and one of the best things I took away from it was to set a timer – I personally went with a kitchen timer shaped like a pear – for 15 minutes and see what you get done. When it rings, you can be done and that’s cool. If you’re on a roll, maybe you just needed that timer as a kickstart. There’s something strangely gratifying about working against the clock and I find that it also helps me to be at least slightly less distracted by all of the noise in my house and my head.

  • Reply Pistachio May 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I am very much the same way. Things that have helped me:

    We have a blackboard in the kitchen where I scrawl really important things that I need to see right in front of my face (i.e.: pay rent, car insurance)

    Google calender. When I put appointments in a little email reminder pops up in my inbox so I don’t forget

    Lastly, I hate to say it, but M.D. got me an iphone. I have a new life. I can check all my email accounts at the same time, I now have a GPS on my phone so if I get lost on foot or in the car it will tell me where to go. I just got it and it has made life much easier.

    Anyway, these are a few of my tricks. I hope it helps! 🙂

  • Reply gesikah May 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I have always been forgetful (names, dates, etc, forget about it…no pun intended), but since I started working full-time it has just gotten worse. Google Calendars has been a lifesaver. I create events to remind me to do everything just short of brushing my teeth at night.

    It’s also synced to my Droid, so even if it is one of the rare occasions I am not tied to a computer, chances are my phone is close by.

  • Reply Amber May 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Acceptance is the greater part of maturity. Accept that this is how you are. And never, ever have children. Apres enfants, no device/planner/diary/personal assistant will guarantee everything (indeed, ANYTHING) gets done. Just roll your boulder to the top of the hill each day and watch it roll back down again. That is if it’s not one of those days when you get it halfway up and it just rolls back down over the top of you.

    I am way happier with my lot than this sounds. Wine helps.

  • Reply Zooey May 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I own a smartphone but pretty much just use it for texting and calling. I can’t live without a planner (this year I’m using a Filofax) and need to write every appointment and task down or I risk accidentally leaving someone alone at the movies or upsetting my boss.

    When I’m stuck in a really busy period, I list down all the things I need to get done. This helps me double-check what needs to get done and makes the situation less overwhelming. Step 2 involves prioritising; I number which tasks ought to get done first, and which tasks can be left for later. If there are specific deadlines to meet, I enter those tasks in my planner so that I have an idea of how much time I have for each thing.

    Hope you find your own little way of going about things! All the best 🙂

  • Reply Sarah May 14, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I have a big whiteboard on my wall in the study and during the day as I think of things that need doing I write them on the board. Then each morning I look at the board and put an arrow next to the things that definitely has to be done that day (usually 3 to 5 things which makes it manageable and achievable. If I have 6 or 7 things with an arrow next to them I find I get overwhelmed and end up not completing all the things with arrows next to them and therefore end up feeling as if I’ve wasted my day). Then at the end of the day I wipe off the things that have been done and start again the next day.

  • Reply Andrew May 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    As someone who also has a need to write (and draw) things down by hand, (especially ideas/designs vs. todo items), buying a ScanSnap (feed scanner) has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I don’t know if it would help you with the problem you are writing about, but it just takes a few seconds to scan a stack of paper into dated JPGs or PDFs. Along with the 8 1/2 x 11 paper I tend to use, I’ve scanned Moleskin pages, envelopes, and even post-its (stuck to a larger sheet). I also now have, e.g., a folder of OCR’d searchable PDFs of Gourmet magazines I won’t have to move again. With the state of the used book market, that may be the fate of books I would otherwise get rid of as well.

  • Reply Cynthia Wig May 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Planner Pad all the way! It is a vertical planner in that you go about planning your weeks via your current top seven projects or goals. It is not a pretty looking planner, but at least you can buy a loose leaf version and trick out a cover as you will. For project-oriented people, it is the best:
    No spam here. I’m just a happy user.

  • Reply CariStereo May 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Whatever method you eventually decide on, make it visually delicious.

    You are a graphic designer, I’m a former one. I know how my brain works: whatever is colorful or graphically attractive, I get excited. I want to reach for that cool looking thing on my desk or in my purse. So, make that method look like something you want to spend time paying attention to. It’ll help, trust!

    (I love graphic collages, so I used to collage all my notebooks, or put cool stickers or printed paper on them so that the cover screamed “look at me!”. It helped!)

  • Reply Celestine May 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I used to write lists – in notebooks, on post-its, scraps of paper etc. I thought if I don’t write it down, I would never remember it. I fretted about getting things not done, to the point where all that took more time than actually doing the tasks. I met someone who said he used to do all that until he realized that he started writing things down that made no sense, and that the lists caused too much stress and he just stopped writing them. At that time, I thought I could never do that, but his story kept popping into my mind, especially whenever I felt frustrated and outdone by that sorry mixture of time constraints, procrastination and things to do.
    So, as of last year, I stopped writing lists (except for the groceries) and I feel liberated. I sleep better, I use my time better, and I do get the things done anyways. I buy one engagement calendar with pretty pictures where I fill in birthdays, jobs and their deadlines, tax payments, fundraisers, dentist appts. etc. I leave that calendar on my desk. I file receipts in Quicken (I’m self-employed). Ideas and some unavoidable scraps of paper get tacked on a cork board above the desk.
    Give it a try, even if it sounds too scary.

  • Reply Isabela May 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Not like you need any more advice than you’ve already received from this post, but now that you have a shiny new iPhone, play with it! iCal is glorious – I sync my iPhone with my iPad with my Gmail (which actually sends me an email in the middle of the night with an agenda for the upcoming day!). Am I a little bit insane? Yes. Would I collapse into a ball of sobs if the interwebz ever stopped working? Absolutely. But I love waking up in the morning, checking my email, and knowing exactly what the day will (read: should, but never actually does) hold. Good luck – organization is exhausting!

  • Reply Bridget May 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I cut up 8×11 sheets into four pieces and clip them to an alligator clip; each day gets a sheet of paper, and I leave several at the end for grocery lists and errands to run (my just-so-I-don’t-forget sheets). Every Sunday, I put things in roughly correct order on my little fourth sheets for that week, so lunch with a friend is listed in the middle and a phone date with another friend at 8 pm is listed near the end of the sheet. Miscellaneous bits are added as I go, things crossed off once completed.

    As my official calender, I use google calender…my favorite feature is to make a birthdays and anniversaries calender and put in an email reminder that occurs yearly so I remember to send a card.

  • Reply erin / dfm May 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    ok i read this entire thread and have officially decided you are my love, anna. i have a problem w/ planners b/c they’re so perfect and i don’t want to mess them up w/ my bad handwriting. so lately i’ve been writing stuff down on a regular notebook (it feels less precious that way!) and HIGHLIGHTING the stuff that gets done. somehow, the added color makes me want to keep going, whereas the “strikethrough” effect of years past just makes me want to start a new page so the strikethroughts aren’t there anymore.

    i am CRAZY.

  • Reply Kate May 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I just bought this same agenda, because of this post! I’ve been trying to get more organized, and while computer to-do-list apps and whatnot are awesome, I’m still old school where I need to write everything down. I just got it today! It’s so cool. I thought it would be lettersized, but I love how it’s smaller!

  • Reply fine little home June 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    these are such fun little planners and i am sure they will change anyone’s life for the better and help them get more organized ; )
    i posted about it on my blog today on getting organized with style!

    thanks for the fab find!

  • Reply Jana @ The Summer House July 4, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I love journals too. Can I join the club? I’m trying to make myself use up what I have before I buy something new.
    xo Jana

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