It all starts with a TO-DO LIST!

July 2, 2011

Before I show you how I try to balance my crazy/cluttered life, let me start by telling you that the first step to getting organized always starts with a TO-DO LIST.

Every morning I sit at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and start a new TO-DO list. This 5-10 minute activity helps set the pace for the day.  I recently discovered/fell in love graph paper Post-it notes for my list making. I’m a sucker for graph paper; it makes me happy. They’re great because they’ll stick anywhere.

There are 3 Basic Lists I like to make:



This list charts out my game plan for the day; it’s a list of specific things that need to get done. On this list, you’ll find my chores like laundry, emptying/loading the dishwasher, putting away toys, blog work, paying a bill, straightening up the house etc. Everyday there’s something new to add! It never ends…



This list consists of things I’ve been thinking about doing. These items don’t necessarily belong on my current day list because I need to plot out a day/weekend or large chunk of time to accomplish them. Sometimes they’re lofty ideas and sometimes they’re things that need I desperately need to get done to gain balance in my life-ahem, cleaning up my office, cleaning out the piles of clothes I’ve thrown in my car or tackling my paper problem at home. It’s important to remember your long term goals because every now and then you might have a free weekend/block of time and you can refer to the list to help give you a game plan.



Yup. Just that. My crazy-brain likes to plan out my erranding so I have a well planned route for my destinations. I absolutely hate backtracking so this list is super important to me. When you have a child, you always need to account for bathroom trips, snack/lunch time and nap time into your scheduling. I usually write down what I need to do and then put a number next to each item to chart out my driving route. This list KEEPS ME SANE.




  • Keep a pad of paper on your night stand!  If you’re losing sleep over what you have to do the next day, write it down!  You’ll get to sleep faster if you have your action plan for the next day.
  • It’s OK to write things on your TO-DO list that you’ve already done. It’s positive reinforcement AND at the end of the day you can see a whole list of your accomplishments. It feels good.
  • Always keep a notepad & pen in your car. Some of the best ideas happen when you’re traveling. Just be safe and write something down when your car isn’t moving.
  • If you don’t get something done, add it to the top of the next day’s TO-DO list.
  • Don’t forget to leave the house with your TO-DO list. If you think you might forget it, plan ahead and take a picture of your list with your cellphone. It’s a savior!



TeuxDeux  is a great app that you can put on your iphone, ipad or use online to manage TO-DO lists. I tend to use this program only I’m working on my computer.  You can quickly add/cross off things you need to accomplish for the day/week. It’s simple, super functional and you can access your ongoing list from any computer.

-If you’re a loyal paper list maker, Simple Mom has a bunch of downloads to help with your paper list making. I highly recommend the Daily Docket!  It helped me balance my life after I had a baby.

Graph Paper Post-its are awesome. I found mine at Target.


Got a great list making tip? Let us know! 



29 comments on “It all starts with a TO-DO LIST!

  1. Natalie Nov 4, 2011

    I am so totally a lists girl! I have a white board in the kitchen with a list or two and I have an app on my phone that I keep track of all my bills due, grocery list, etc. Lists are awesome. Can’t live without them!

  2. tracy shutterbean! you’ve already motivated me to take on quite a few organizing projects in my life recently! i copied the idea on your website of a recipe folder to organize all the things i’ve ripped out of magazines. i also recycled all those magazines once i was done with them! i love a good to do list, but tend to just make one long one. i love the idea of breaking it down into today, long-term, and errands. this is going to become especially important as we get into the holiday zone!

    • Fantastic! I’m really glad that recipe folder idea is working out for you. I have to go in and sort through mine. It’s a new season, after all. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I plan out my errands to run as well! I like to have a well thought out plan and map of my day. I hate to waste time running back and forth!

  4. OMG I <3 lists too! Definitely help me keep everything in my mind and life in order. I think one of the funniest things about my boyfriend and I is how much we both love lists. We were like, "what you love lists as much as me… it's meant to be!"

  5. Yay to new content! Love it! Tracy, you speak my language. Where some women get excited in Sur La Table or Anthropologie, I freak out at OfficeMax. Ok, I freak out at all 3 places, but still. I need that graph paper post it pad in my life. My Engineer husband always insists all my notes can be done on my smartphone and integrated better, blah blah blah. While that’s true, I like to write lists! It’s very old school of me, but sometimes that’s ok, right?

  6. I started doing a brain dump (Thanks to Tsh!) each morning and each night. It’s sort of like a running to do list. I don’t necessarily complete each item that day but I can review my list from Monday on Friday and see what items are still yet undone and bothering me and then work to complete them. it definitely helps to get it out of my head and onto paper! That graph paper stick note looks fun!

    • The brain dump is SOOO important! I get soo stressed if I don’t do it.

  7. Hmmmmmm. You’ve inspired me.

  8. Love it! I totally do all 3 of those lists (plus an ongoing grocery list). Glad to know I’m not the only one.

  9. Clair Nov 4, 2011

    Glad I’m not the only one who puts already completed tasks on my to do list. It kinda feels like cheating but it’s cool crossing them off! 😀
    Just brought a “masterplan” diary/journal which is assisting my list addiction.

  10. Petila Nov 4, 2011

    Lists make me so happy!!!

    Along with my daily to do list, I have a recurring weekly to do list that has a list of all of the chores and errands that I tend to do every week, so I don’t forget anything.

    I just added the TeuxDeux app which I’m so excited about, and I just bought the graph stickies…thanks for sharing your to do list tips!

    • PETILA!!!!!!!! What do you think of the stickies?? Amazing, right?

      • Petila Nov 9, 2011

        I just picked them up from Staples!!! I’m about to write a work to-do list, and I got some Sharpie extra fine point pens to write with! I’m set up for success!

        • Those extra fine Sharpie pens are wonderful! I got a couple black ones and then also got a package of different colors. So great for making lists!

  11. List making ALWAYS soothes my crazy brain, even if I don’t end up doing most of the things I write down I always feel productive just by the action of making the lists. Great post

  12. Is it just me – or does anyone else LOVE seeing other moms’ lists? “Clean out car” is often on mine too, though it only gets crossed off about 4 times a year :)

    Love the idea of taking a photo of your list with your phone. I never thought about just snapping a pic of my list of errands… since they’re usually scribbled on a white board or the back of a piece of mail.

  13. I’m a magnet for graph paper, too! Didn’t see these graph paper post-its!

  14. Karie Janik Nov 6, 2011

    If it weren’t for “TO DO” lists, I’d lose my mind and nothing would get done!! I’m like you in the sense that I have to keep seperate lists as well (home, work, on the run). Great minds do think alike!! :)

  15. I think the graph paper post it notes sales just sky rocketed! :) Picked up mine today.

  16. I’m loving this new addition already! I’m totally a list person. I’ve been trying to convince my hubby to be one, too, and he’s actually started writing things down. Love the graph paper!

  17. You should check out….GREAT lists!!! “All Out Of” and “To Do” are my favorites. The to do list compacts all your lists into one handy tablet. I give them as gifts and everybody loves them.

    • I LOOOOOOOOVE that company. The ALL OUT OF notepad is one of my favorites!

  18. Teresa Finnern Nov 18, 2011

    Wrote mine before I left work this evening!!

  19. We are one in the same. I have a thing for making all kinds of lists. Although sometimes they get lost in the black hole of papers!!

  20. Joanna Dec 1, 2011

    Graph paper post-it notes! I need these in my life! I’m also an avid To-do list maker, though I’m not very consistent- I’m going to try sitting down and writing them out every morning, I like that idea.

  21. Jillian Dec 5, 2011

    I just bought $4.00 graph paper post-its and I TOTALLY blame you. I have been thinking about them ever since reading this last week. I saw them in Staples and quickly hid them in my basket so my husband wouldn’t see and give me a hard time about $4.00 post-its!!!! <3

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