How List-Making Kept Me Sane (And Made Me More Productive)

list-making for productivity

I feel like there’s a threshold for human productivity. We all eventually reach a point when enough is enough, and adding another responsibility would send us plunging over the edge into a full-blown panic attack. (Or, if you’re more of the suffer-in-silence type, you’ll just cry on the inside.) Flirting with that threshold, we may find ourselves forgetting important tasks or rushing through them because we know there’s a lot more in other departments of our lives that needs accomplishing.

 This October through December, I was hovering around that line (read: not yet curled up on the floor in the fetal position, but definitely scouting for spots). My husband and I were trying to close on our first house, coordinate the move, and prepare for our first child. On top of doctor’s appointments and home inspections, I was also working three jobs, planning two baby showers (one for my sister, too) and attempting to get excited about the holidays.

There were times when I felt too overwhelmed to continue and considered what might be given up in order for me to maintain sanity. Something had to change.

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I evaluated my responsibilities; nothing could go. Everything on my list was a once-in-a-lifetime, get-excited sort of event, and yet I was tempted to cry every time I thought about all that I had to do. So I forged ahead with determination. I realized that the panic began to set in when too many things were floating around in my head waiting to be done: call the realtor, complete loan application, send shower invitations.

Putting those tasks down on paper allowed me to sum up each major task into bite-sized pieces so my brain could finally relax. Suddenly, it was easier to sleep knowing that everything was written down, and my days became more productive once my task-list was visual.

Here’s what I learned along the way:

1.) Of course, keep a to-do list. Or two. Or three. Sometimes it’s easier to have one for each day, but you may find that keeping one comprehensive list that you update often is a better way to see the big picture. Experiment and see what works for you.

2.) Don’t stop with to-do lists! At the height of my frenzy, about 10 pages in my notebook had lists on them. From our baby shower RSVPs, to supply lists for work, to thank you cards I wanted to send, anything that was taking up space in my head made its way onto paper, allowing me to focus on just one thing at a time and know that the rest wouldn’t be forgotten.

3.) Keep all of your lists in the same place, whether it’s in a notebook or a planner. You’ll feel scattered if your lists are randomly strewn about your home and you’ll have to recreate some when they are inevitably lost. I chose this notebook from TinyPrints as my lifeline because I was able to customize it with inspiring images from my own life — projects I was proud of, memories of happy times and little moments that would shed light into the looming darkness and remind me of why I was even going to all this trouble!

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4.) Put little things (like “Do a load of laundry”) on your to-do list. Seeing a few things checked off, even if they’re simple tasks, will make you feel better about yourself and motivate you enough to tackle the bigger goals.

5.) Give yourself a reward for when an especially intimidating list is completed! Whether it’s a pint of ice cream or a guilt-free bubble bath, having something to work toward will keep you on track.

This morning I found myself flipping through the older pages in my notebook. I saw scribbled out to-do lists and ideas for projects that started as words on a page, but are now tangible accomplishments. Satisfaction swelled inside of me when I stumbled upon a list I had written in October of questions to ask my realtor about our potential new home. Months later, we’re here, unpacked and patiently awaiting baby’s arrival. The house may not be spotless — but, hey, at least it’s ours.


Julia writes for TinyPrints about her handmade and décor driven life, including her personalized organization tools.



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Julia is a self-proclaimed vintage-loving gal who spends her time sewing, crafting and reading in her New England home state, New Hampshire. Find out what Julia’s making next on her personal blog or follow her on Twitter