The To-Do List

posted in: Life, Lists, Obsessions 83 comments

Erin Condren planner

I have a daily mental checklist of to-dos, that I quietly and happily tick off in my head when things get done.

The must-dos which really shouldn’t be on a ‘list’, that just is, such as bathing the boys, getting them dressed, making sure they get their naps and meals – yes, those get ticked off one by one as we get through the day.

Then there is the other list – laundry, dinner prep, house cleaning, and on certain days, changing bed sheets and towels and so on.

To further fuel my obsessive need for lists, there is my blogging to-do list – blog reading and commenting, time on social media, all the additional projects I’m involved in with World Moms Blog and the SITS Girls, my Everyday Family writing gig, and of course Little Love Media, for which I’ve not made much time to promote since its launch (this is a blog post all on its own, sigh). All opportunities for which I’m grateful for, but boy do they take up time.

Time of which I have little, since aside from to-dos on my list, there’s the to-dos that’s not, because they are just things I do with my boys. Get on the floor and play with blocks, build towers, pretend to be a horse and let the toddler get on my back, grabbing the baby for an impromptu dance session, putting together and throwing apart train tracks, snuggling, reading, just being.

I’ve put some of those to-do lists onto paper, because gosh, did you know my brain can only store so much information before it combusts and inevitably, I’ll forget something (sorry honey, for forgetting the cream cheese in the creamy spinach pasta, here, this is just-spinach pasta!).

I love my new Erin Condren planner. Actually writing stuff down and ticking them off makes my organizing heart happy. Writing them down also keeps me accountable, which is awesome.

I even jotted down all the meals I make that’s a staple along with the ingredients so when I do grocery shopping, I know exactly what I need. Before, I would do a quick pantry/ refrigerator inventory with a notepad in hand and guess what, I always forget something (notice the underlying theme here).

Even with all the fancy online calendars out there (which I do use for some purposes), I still love the feel of a pen in my hand, writing down things. Even if it’s just “GET CREAM CHEESE”.

So although I told myself the other day, when some stuff didn’t get checked off in my head and I felt crap for hours, that I AM NOT MY TO-DO LIST, I know I am. And that’s okay.

* I was not compensated for this post in any way. I bought my Erin Condren life planner with my own money and they don’t even know I’m mentioning them in this post. 

** Thank you Tracy of Sellabit Mum for this post inspiration. 

Are you organized? Do you have a planner? Do you use an online calendar?

My second article on Everyday Family is up! I wrote about the things I wish someone had told me about being pregnant while caring for a toddler. Click over for a read? Or share the article with a friend who’s pregnant with a second baby? Thank you so much!

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • November 21, 2012 tracy

    I love you. And your lists. My post-it note on my forehead system is sucking big-time right now.
    tracy recently wrote…Do People Still Buy Hostess Ding Dongs?My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Foreheads are too small for organization.
      Love you too. xo

  • November 21, 2012 Brittany

    Oh I love Calendars! And not just online because it just does not give me as much pure JOY as crossing things off a list. I’m totally going to start adding bathe the kids and such. more crossing off!

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Hee! See, daily to-dos are fun to write down!

  • November 21, 2012 Beth

    I am going to be finishing the year with my Erin Condren planner, but am not purchasing another for 2013. I can’t justify the price when I am just writing down ‘Lauren had 6 tantrums today and Avery pooped.” So I found a cute one at Target last week for $10. Downside to that? It doesn’t start until January and I am itching to write in it.

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Fair enough! $10 is a good price. I also understand the need to write in it straight away, hehe.

  • November 21, 2012 Laura at Mommy Miracles

    I need to-do lists. And I try to keep them. But sometimes the list is just so much longer than the time I have and that makes me feel even more anxious about everything, so then I give up on my to-do lists and live in a blissful little absentminded world for a while.

    It is a bad cycle.

    I love my Erin Condren planner too! Something that is SO cute and personalized makes me want to write in it. And you know what? Often times grabbing a pen and jotting is so much easier than going to an electronic device, opening up the proper program or app and getting that item added to the list. So, I’m like you. I prefer the pen and paper mode when it comes to planning too!
    Laura at Mommy Miracles recently wrote…Looking BehindMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      I know what you mean! My husband downloaded a Notes app for me on my phone for me to write my grocery list down – and I just ended up with a notebook and pen anyway. Heh.

  • November 21, 2012 Olga

    I resisted switching to google calendar for so long. I loved my moleskine books and would refuse to part with them. But then I did make a switch and I’m happy with it. Some things I only need to enter once (like birthdays) and they always stay in the calendar. I love being able to schedule my day tight and being able to invite people to events on my calendar — it’s very useful for group planning. And I use the task manager for writing down tasks — it even crosses them out when they are done -;)

    But, I still have notebooks for ideas and tasks that are more conceptual in nature. My ideas about the blog, my other writing, any thoughts I might have that I want to jot down, goals, etc.
    Olga recently wrote…Redefining SpecialMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      I love jotting down ideas too!

  • November 21, 2012 The Dose of Reality

    It was hard for me to switch to the online calendar and to do list for everything so I can’t switch back…but…I just checked out that company AND YOU CAN GET PERSONALIZED NOTEBOOKS, TOO!! I feel like I’m in heaven! They look SO adorable. I’m definitely putting one of them on my gift list. (and they have so many other things, too!) Love discovering a new place to look for gifts!! Thanks!!

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Oh yes, they have a bunch of other really cute things that will be perfect as stocking stuffers! They have a Black Friday 50% sale on the 23rd, so do check out it out!

  • November 21, 2012 Christine

    I love my to do lists. I really do. They make me feel organized and in (somewhat) control of all the craziness in life. I lovelovelove crossing things off my lists and I have been known to add things to my list that I’ve already completed just so that I can cross them off. haha. Plus, as my husband likes to remind me, my memory isn’t what it used to be. However, I’m not super happy with my to-do/organization system lately. I use a combination of on- and off-line and it feels redundant.
    Christine recently wrote…Thanksgiving Day Workout {Guest Post}My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      I do the online offline thing a little too. I mostly use the planner to write down my daily to-dos, and my online is for my blogging notes. Still not a perfect system but getting there!

  • November 21, 2012 angela

    I love planning on paper 🙂 It makes me happy, plus I get to use cool pens. That’s the main point, right? (One of my best IRL friends adores her Erin Condren. Adores might be too mild a word.)
    angela recently wrote…Around the CornerMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Colorful pens! The weakness of a writer 🙂

  • November 21, 2012 Alexandra

    you forgot one thing: Make Alexandra double chocolate chocolate-chip cookies.

    Alexandra recently wrote…A Holy DayMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      On the list. xoxo

  • November 21, 2012 Maureen

    You are one busy and very productive, mama! I’m such a list person. I make a list of just about everything lol. That planner is seriously so cute. 🙂
    Maureen recently wrote…Back On TrackMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Ooh, fellow lister!
      Yes, the planner is gorgeous, it’s my new love!

  • November 21, 2012 Jamie

    No Alison. I am not organized. All those genetics skipped me and hit my younger CPA sister. I do live by list though. And get distracted from following them. I’ll check out that organizer. I need all the help I can get.
    Jamie recently wrote…The more things change. The more they stay the same.My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Hee! Funny lady. Erin Condren has the cutest things, be warned, you’ll get sucked in 🙂

  • November 21, 2012 Kimberly

    My to do list keeps my sanity in check. It really does. However, I prioritize and make my family and myself come first no matter how much I need to tackle laundry. It’s about being present in the moment and if that means skipping on washing the dishes then so be it xo
    Kimberly recently wrote…When Your Husband Is A Half BreedMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Absolutely. Which is why I’m always folding damn laundry at 10pm. 🙂

  • November 21, 2012 Kim

    I do have an online list that I use and like, but even with my kids grown, there is so much that goes undone. Thanks for the reminder we are not our lists, or what is undone on our lists. :-0
    Kim recently wrote…Gratitude, shmatitude.Just let me enjoy my pumpkin pie in peace.My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Oh but Kim, I AM my to-do- list! To an extent. I just feel so much more accomplished when I check things off. 🙂

  • November 21, 2012 Ginny Marie

    I just love the quote on the front of your planner! I need to write my lists on paper, too. Having an online planner just doesn’t work for me because it’s not right in front of me all the time!
    Ginny Marie recently wrote…Nighttime DuetMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Yes, exactly! It’s so much easier to just pick up the planner and a pen!

  • November 21, 2012 Kim

    Your organizer is much cuter than mine! I write all my to-do lists and reminders in a tattered coil notebook. I need to write stuff down so that I can keep myself on-task. I tend to forget things when I have a lot on my mind. 🙂
    Kim recently wrote…In The MiddleMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Erin Condren has such gorgeous products. I’ve not bought myself anything for a long time, so this planner is my pretty thing for the year.

  • November 21, 2012 Nellie

    My co-worker just got one of those planners, and she doesn’t even USE planners! I need to look into getting one. I guess my fear is that on March 1st it will be under a pile of my toddlers drawings!
    Nellie recently wrote…Wordless Wednesday: Mommyhood Follows Wherever You GoMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Oh do get one, they’re so pretty and useful!

  • November 21, 2012 Jen Burden

    I have so many things that need to be ticked off. Thanks for bringing me back to remember to write everything down! (I do have the cream cheese though, but I need butter!) 😉

    And, World Moms Blog is lucky to have you working so hard on our social media! You rock!

    Jen 🙂
    Jen Burden recently wrote…SOUTH AFRICA: International Internet Love….Fact or Fiction?My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Your cup is runneth over, my friend 🙂
      And thank you for having me on WMB!

  • November 21, 2012 KalleyC

    I have an online to-do list (well, it’s on my phone) and I have several of them for grocery shopping, and house hold things, reminders to call someone and it all has an alarm so that I know that has to get done very soon.

    I love having pen and paper in hand (since I do have a love for fountain pens) but lately I have been doing a lot of things on my phone. I guess I resorted into using the phone because I couldn’t find a planner that I was happy with. I think I will check this out.
    KalleyC recently wrote…Don’t Want to Miss A ThingMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Do! Erin Condren has such gorgeous stuff – so consider yourself warned, you’ll get sucked in 🙂

  • November 22, 2012 AnnMarie

    Organized…hmmm…in my own way, I guess but it would confuse anyone else looking in from the outside. I only have my calendar on the fridge. It’s one of the mom ones with a slot for each kid. I want to be more organized so I’ll look into that one. I swear being organized is on my bucket list. 🙂
    AnnMarie recently wrote…22 Reasons to Give ThanksMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      You have a calendar – that’s a win 🙂

  • So do you mean to say that you are an OLM (Obessive List Maker) too?
    Good to know I’m not the only one! I really cannot function when I don’t have a to do list, not just at the office, but even when I have a day off I like to sit at the table and plan my day.
    I’m nuts right…
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…Roasted pumpkin salad with roquefort or how I fight the return of the baby-pouchMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Hah, OLM!! YES!
      You are NOT nuts. Writing lists is…. therapeutic.

  • November 22, 2012 sarah

    I love to do lists. I write one or two out every day. Maybe I’m old fashioned like that too, but I have to write them out. Love technology, but that’s. One old school thing I can’t give up 🙂
    sarah recently wrote…the midweek spill–I know it’s not sundayMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Me too!! I’ve tried the list thing on my phone – it’s just not the same.

  • November 22, 2012 MamaCassie

    I live by lists! My problem is, I have lists for lists and make too many lists, that I lose track of the lists and never get through the lists…. Oy!
    I’m hoping Santa brings me an Erin Condren life planner….I’ve had my eye on them for awhile now. I love yours! Very purty! 🙂
    MamaCassie recently wrote…Something Is Missing…My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Haha, a case of Over-Listing. An Erin Condren planner will sort that out. 😉

  • November 22, 2012 Jessica

    You have a lot on your plate, which is good because it’s all well deserved! Just remember to sleep and drink tea. Do I sound like your mother? lol. Sorry. I think having a planner is a great and necessary way to stay organized when you’ve got lots of different projects going on!
    Jessica recently wrote…The best of fall is its colorsMy Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Heh, thanks Jessica. Who doesn’t need a little mothering here and there? 🙂

  • November 22, 2012 Runnermom-jen

    I always try to be organized, but I never make to-do lists (except for holiday meal preparations). I meal plan and write that down on our dry erase calendar, but I really hate to-do lists. I’m such a rebel like that 😉

    Alison, you are SO MUCH MORE than your to-do list.
    Runnermom-jen recently wrote…Happy Thanksgiving…My Profile

    • November 22, 2012 Alison

      Sometimes I wish I could be list-free.

      Nah, who am I kidding? 🙂

  • November 23, 2012 thedoseofreality

    I tend to use my Outlook calendar for everything, which is great, except for the fact that I don’t have a smart phone. I need to get some kind of organizer to carry with me. I will go check this one out! 🙂

    • November 23, 2012 Alison

      Oh do! They are having a Black Friday sale RIGHT NOW! Though not on the planners, but they have other really cute stuff.

  • November 24, 2012 Not a Perfect Mom

    wow…just wow…
    how on earth do you manage all that? My poor blog has been neglected as has my laundry, housework, getting my oil changed…everything…
    and a planner? huh? what? I daresay I’d lose it
    Not a Perfect Mom recently wrote…Thankful For UnderwearMy Profile

    • November 24, 2012 Alison

      Well, the big boy is going to preschool 3 times a week in the morning now, and my in laws have the baby for a couple of hours in the evening before his bedtime. And I stay up REALLY late. 🙂

  • November 24, 2012 Julie

    My grandfather keeps legal pads on clipboards for his lists, and I adopted that habit early on. I LOVE crossing things off lists. It feels great. That’s a pretty planner though!
    Julie recently wrote…YeeHaw for MawMaw #iPPPMy Profile

    • November 24, 2012 Alison

      When I worked, I had notepads where I wrote my lists out and crossed them off.
      Somehow, when one doesn’t have a desk, it’s hard to keep notepads and such around to write on.
      But when a planner is pretty……

  • November 24, 2012 Julie Moore

    Happy Sharefest! 🙂 I’m a list writer, too! I have an email calendar, a purse calendar, a wall calendar, fridge calendar…all places I write down my appointments and “to do”s. I don’t know where I’d be without them! I even have things color coordinated (i.e. pink for doctor’s appointments) so I know in a glance what it is.
    Julie Moore recently wrote…Thank you!My Profile

  • November 24, 2012 DGMommy (Tamara)

    I am so much more productive when I put my lists in writing. I just can’t use an online list very well. It goes ignored for days. When I actually put it in writing it makes me more accountable and I actually get(most of) it done! My hubby brought me home a planner, but it only starts in January, so it’s a spiral notebook for now. What I really want is this blogger planner on topmommyblogger site, but it’s out of the $ range for now…
    Great post! You cracked me up with the cream/spinach dinner. Perfect for the Sharefest!
    DGMommy (Tamara) recently wrote…How to Handle Vomit – A Guide for First-TimersMy Profile

    • November 24, 2012 Alison

      Yes, exactly, I do feel more accountable when I write stuff down, which is why I love my planner! Thanks for visiting.

  • November 24, 2012 Tina

    Most of the time I keep my to-do list in my head, which is horrible! I finally bought a planner to start using…nothing feels better than crossing things off!

    • November 24, 2012 Alison

      I did that too, it was making my head explode 🙂

  • November 24, 2012 misssrobin

    I love pen and paper in hand to make my notes. It’s much more satisfying to check something off that way instead of just hitting a button.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy Sharefest.
    misssrobin recently wrote…An Abusive Husband, part threeMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012 Alison

      Right? I love it.

  • November 25, 2012 vanita

    OMG Alison. What were u thinking posting this site? OMG, I can spend hours here. lol. this stuff is just awesome.
    vanita recently wrote…The Truth About Premium CommentluvMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012 Alison

      Hah! Have fun shopping 😉

  • November 25, 2012 grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    I’ve been using a Moleskin notebook (no rings with fancy colorful covers). Each week I start a new to-do list on a new page moving over whatever I didn’t get done. I love that it gives me space to think and dream ideas. I also use to brainstorm for guest posts, or blog series or whatever. There’s something comforting to me to have all that in one pretty notebook. =) I’ve tried using online stuff, or iphone to-do lists apps, but nothing is as satisfying as pen to paper and crossing off a to-do list with a big firm hard line or the gentle swipe of a highlighter. =)
    grace at {Gabbing with Grace} recently wrote…In Which I Attempt to Finish My Book in 4 DaysMy Profile

    • November 25, 2012 Alison

      A fellow pretty notebook/ planner person, yay!

  • November 26, 2012 My Inner Chick

    Alison Lee,
    How do you do it all?

    I can’t keep up with this crazy social media scene. Xxx Kiss
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…Blogging Without BoundariesMy Profile

    • November 26, 2012 Alison

      I don’t sleep. 🙂

  • November 26, 2012 Katie

    I kind of love your planner. and I kind of want it.

    I have a Mom Agenda “pocket” planner that I really like. It lives in my desk at school and gets ignored because I am between buildings this year and that has totally messed up my planning and organization processes. I am 12 weeks into the school year and can’t get a handle on organizing myself. I mean, we’ve been off school for five days due to the holiday and I just remembered I forgot to return a parent phone call on Tuesday. FAIL.

    Don’t even get me started on my blogging/freelance deadlines.

    As a family we use the online Cozi system. I hate it, but it’s convenient because we can check from out computers and our phones.

    But I love pencil-written things in my own planner.

    Katie recently wrote…Project 365 {week 47}My Profile

    • November 26, 2012 Alison

      Do you know Erin Condren has lesson planners for teachers? Just sayin’. 🙂

      I’m sorry your planner is getting neglected because of the two-building situation. Bah.

  • November 27, 2012 Galit Breen

    I wish that I was naturally organized! But I too, have so, so very many lists!

    I adore you, girl!

    Galit Breen recently wrote…I’ll NeverMy Profile

    • November 27, 2012 Alison

      I adore you too my friend!!

  • November 27, 2012 Tonya

    I have an ongoing To Do list in a notebook I carry around with me and then a Daily To Do list for well, daily stuff and then a list in my phone of BIG, lofty To Do’s Sometimes there is cross-over, sometimes not but nothing beats the feeling of crossing shit off!!
    Tonya recently wrote…Have You Ever?My Profile

    • November 27, 2012 Alison

      Right?? It’s so satisfying,

  • November 29, 2012 Lady Jennie

    I much prefer paper and pen but I am still not organized. My level of busy has gone beyond organization and I think my head is about to spontaneously combust.
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Dog DaysMy Profile

    • November 29, 2012 Alison

      I honestly don’t know how you do it. If I had as much on my plate, one planner might not be enough. 🙂

  • November 29, 2012 Kimberly

    It’s getting close to the end of the year and do you know what that means? I GET TO BUY A NEW PLANNER!!! Yes, I get uber-excited about that. And lists.
    Kimberly recently wrote…Little Man, Huge HeartMy Profile

    • November 29, 2012 Alison

      #TwinThing #ListsRock

  • November 30, 2012 Jessica

    I make notes in my phone because it’s the one and only thing I ALWAYS have with me (besides my kids). Helps me not forget all the awesome cocktail ideas I come up with at random times.
    Jessica recently wrote…To Do or Not To Do – It YourselfMy Profile

    • November 30, 2012 Alison

      It’d be a damn shame to forget those!

  • December 2, 2012 Elena

    yes, the forever expanding to-do list! I love planners – actually writing things down. I’ll have to check this one out.
    Elena recently wrote…Santa Claus is coming…to a list near you. And I need help.My Profile

    • December 2, 2012 Alison

      Do! It’s awesome.

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