In my last post, I shared some of my (mostly behind-the-scenes) 2020 efforts+wins. So, I thought I’d turn things around a bit now and let you in on my favorite practice for creatively managing time…

I’ve shared this little strategy a bunch of times over the past few years in masterclasses with music majors and other creatives, and I figure it’s high time I share it here, too!

DOWNLOAD MY “TO DO” LIST TEMPLATE >>>

It’s a pretty simple idea, really. But the thing I love most about it is that there’s room for so many different kinds of things. It’s great to be able to see my long term, big-picture plans listed right next to the smallest things—like Bear’s semi-annual vet visit, or a note to order some new XLR cables.

And of course you can customize it however you want!

Some General Notes…

  • I always have the hard copy with me. Like, truly always. I keep it on a clipboard, and I pencil in notes about anything and everything that I may need to add or adjust. When my hard copy starts getting messy with all of the notes I’ve added, I edit the digital file and reprint (usually about once a week).
  • I personally use the dividing line to separate things that are in a specific timeline from things that just need to happen “later.” Once an item has been moved above the line, I am committing to accomplish it in the very near future.
  • Feel Free to utilize font sizes and colors if it helps you focus on the most important things.
  • Do whatever works for you!

Above The Line:

  • Pending: This is where I keep a list of items that require someone else’s action/response/attention before I can continue. I usually follow up on these items about once a week. But it really helps me to be able to see this kind of task all in one spot.
  • Buy: I think I save myself a LOT of errand-running time by keeping this list in a regular way. It’s very rare that I get home from the store and realize I’ve forgotten something important.
  • Add: I like to keep a list of small/easy things that I can do if I find myself with an extra 20 minutes here or there—if one of my students is late, if I arrive early to an appointment, if I finish another project early. If I didn’t have this sort of list in a reliable place, I might use these here-and-there bits of time watching Netflix, instead of focusing on non-pressing tasks that I might otherwise put off until they pile up.
  • Week Days: I do try to plan things out for each day of the week, but I also make it a point to listen to my brain about what sorts of tasks it can best manage given the mood I’m in. So, I will frequently move a Friday task to Monday (or whatever). But having things mapped out like this helps me imagine that I’m swapping tasks, rather than just looking at a big list of items and having no idea where to begin. When I’m planning, I’ll also try to make sort of educated guesses about what kind of mood I might be in based on what day of the week it is—what meetings or appointments (anything non-negotiable) I have scheduled that day, etc. I try to make projections about what kind of work I will most likely be suited for on each day. But…I don’t try to force it if it’s not working.
  • Next Week: I use this line to give me a quick, bird’s eye view of what significant items I have in the near future. I find that this really helps me mentally and emotionally prepare. Those items feel non-threatening to me—sitting there in the “next week” line. And by the time they’re in my daily items, I’m used to them.
  • Next Month: I continue the same kind of thinking for the upcoming month. Usually I’ll include bigger items here. Sometimes, they’re the kind of things I might feel really overwhelmed by, but seeing them every day—knowing they’re in the future, but also the not-too-distant future—really helps me warm up to them in a [usually] anxiety-free sort of way. I can slowly do the mental prep work before I’m doing the actual work.

Below the Line (Smaller Font):

This is where I start dividing things up by project-type, rather than by timeline. I can quickly see short term, medium term, and long term projects…and I can slowly move each item up into my day/week/month sections.

And finally, I keep notes about general logistical things—what months I go to the dentist or eye doctor, when I need to reorganize computer files, when different annual bills are due, etc. Keeping these things in my daily view helps me plan more thoroughly, so my weekly/monthly lists aren’t suddenly sabotaged by something silly like doing my taxes. 😅 I’ll see those things coming weeks in advance, and can plan for them.

So there it is, my friends! This simple template is my whole secret. Haha. If any of these things feel intuitive or useful to you, I’m so glad to share them! And if this all seems ridiculous to you, that’s also fine! We each have to figure out what works well with our uniquely brilliant brains.

In any case, I send best wishes to your very own making/doing habits!

EM