Own your To Do List

“Don't be the slave of your inbox. Just because something's there doesn't mean you have to do it.” Malcom S. Forbes, Jr.

1- Do your Most Important Things in the Morning
Why waste the best nuggets of your productivity peak on email? Save email for when you aren't ready to crank out that big project.

One of the most helpful ideas from Leo Babauta‘s book The Power of Less is to designate three “MITs” (Most Important Things) for each day and start on them FIRST.

Challenge #1: Make a list of your 3 most important things for tomorrow. In the morning, work on them first.

Further Reading: the Power of Less (book), Zen Habits (blog)
Essential Tools: I use my Circa/ Rollabind/ M by Staples customizable notebook. (They are from the same company. You can get the arc paper at Staples cheaply but I get the rings and punches from rollabind and the coolest stuff is from Levenger but is more expensive.) Yes, it is on paper but it works. I give myself ONE page for lists.

2- Examine Your Routines
I've always hated the word “routine” as belonging to the boring, nonspontaneous person without a life. WRONG! They are liberating.

Ninety five per cent of what we accomplish is through the habits of what we do. (Way We're Working Isn't Working)  When I went through the things I really want to do and what I'm doing, there was a disconnect. For me, I have four categories of “routines:” Big picture habits, quick routines of 10-15 minutes, errands, and CHORES!

Big Picture Habits.
I have a new Google Calendar called “Vicki's Habits” that is in a different color. I use this to schedule my habits and what I am doing but keep it separate so if I need to be spontaneous, I can. When I check email, have my quiet time, exercise, blog, and spend time or meet with important people in my life go in this category.

Challenge #2: What are the big picture things you need to make time for each week. Just make a list right now. Schedule when you will do ONE of those this week. JUST ONE.

Quick Routines.
Developed from FlyLady's and Sidetracked Home Executives models, there are small things that make a HUGE difference. I have 4 of these scattered in my day that have made a tremendous impact on my life and the life of my family. They go in my Home Routines app on the home screen of my iPod. I know my routines are there and what times of day I do them. No onesie twosie's there.

Wake Up Routine: Jump up, wash face w/ a wonderful scrub (cold water to wake me up as I get up at 5am), face lotion, glass plus off the bathroom counter. Time. 5 minutes. BIGGEST NOTICEABLE IMPACT: My bathroom stays clean b/c other family members see it is clean.

Breakfast Routine: Feed Kids, Take Vitamins, Make Sure Everything is by the door to take to school, load and start dishwasher.Time: 5 minutes or less. BIGGEST IMPACT: Dishes stay clean.

Lunchtime Routine: grab my outbox, go to teacher's lounge Microwave my lunch (takes 4 minutes), put things in inboxes, grab my inbox, go back to my room, clean off all desk, add paper to the printers, put up headphones and glass plus off desk. If I'm running low on paper, I'll get from teacher's lounge when I go to lunch. Time: I race to beat my lunch this takes between 4-8 minutes.

“Get Home” Routine: I unpack my clothes from my gym bag (since I changed and worked out after school), hang up or put in wash, repack for tomorrow and put back by my launchpad table, make sure tomorrow's clothes are ready, check bookbag of youngest and get him started on homework he hasn't finished, get mail and process it all, take out trash,unload dishwasher and turn on my computer. Time: 15 minutes. BIGGEST IMPACT: Workout schedule, Son's grades, Mail Doesn't Stack Up, Dishes are Clean, Kitchen is Clean, I get dressed in the morning in 3 minutes.

Challenge #3: Think about your evening routine. What are the things you should do to be ready for tomorrow. Make a list of no more than 3 things that would make a big difference tomorrow. Do it tonight.

I have an Errands app and schedule how often I need to do errands. Every saturday after I see Mom and Dad I go to the grocery store – so that is down for every Saturday. If I go earlier in the week (like I did this week) I go ahead and check it off.

I have to go to the post office twice a week, dry cleaners every 3 weeks, and get gas once a week. I schedule them in errands – NOTHING ELSE – and have this app on my homescreen of my ipod touch. The badge shows me EXACTLY how many errands I have in town and I also add any other onesie twosie errands on there as well. Keep it simple but accurate.

Challenge #4: Make a list of the repeating errands you have. Can you group them on one day? Can you separate from your regular list and put it in a system that will remind you?

At home, I bought the Motivated Mom's Chore Planner and printed it for my kids and babysitter who comes in sometimes. This took the thinking out of what I had to do to keep my house clean because I hate making lists for that sort of thing but I like having a clean house. No thinking, we just do it. I do chores on Saturday mornings after grocery shopping.

These DO NOT go on my list of onsie-twosie things I need to do but go in two places: the app (I use it for home and school) for daily and weekly routines that I create, chores are in the Motivated mom's app on my itouch. These are on the first screen of my ipod touch.

Challenge #5: Find a system to handle your home chores. make it yourself or look at those from Motivated Mom's, FlyLady, Sidetracked Home Executives or wherever. Make it mindless. Set an appointment on your routine calendar to hit chores.

There are high impact chores that should be part of your routines. Laundry. Dishes. Feeding Pets. Laying Out Clothes. Keeping kitchen and bathroom counters shining. Putting up clothes. Changing Sheets.

Challenge #6: Look at the biggest fail in your house today and take one part of that task to put in your evening routine.

What about those onesie- twosie tasks?
I keep them on a list in my Circa notebook. I give myself ONE page a day. It stays in the front of my notebook. I adore my Circa/ Rollabind/ M by Staples customizable notebook – I just call it my Circa though. I have time for tackling those during my day built into my schedule. Make sure you have a place to keep this list but keep it SHORT and keep it manageable.

How do you remember the many things on the list?
I have over 250 things RIGHT now on my on deck list. Who can do 250 things – no one? We are becoming increasingly defined by our ability to focus on the diamonds hidden under the trash of abundance. We have fuzzy goals at work and too many things vying for interest. I have a master list of things in my circa with one page for each major area of my life – 5 altogether. (Flat Classroom, Flat Classroom book, School, Home, Cool Cat Teacher.) I look at them when I plan every night.

How about projects?
I plan projects and keep my 3 most important “projects” in front of me all the time. At least one of my MITs and/or routines a day should have to do with my key projects.

Routines in Review
CIRCA NOTEBOOK – So, in summary, my organization system has evolved to include: ONE page daily list including my 3 MITs in my Circa. Also in circa: master lists (5 pages) and my current big projects I've planned out and am actively working on (I limit myself to 3 – any more and NONE will get done.)

ITOUCH – My itouch homescreen has the Motivated Mom's app for chores, Errands to keep up with Errands, and Home Routines to keep up with routines.

GOOGLE CALENDAR – I have a Vicki's routine calendar that only I can see to set important appointments with myself. I don't put too many on there but I think twice before scheduling appointments then.

CHORE TRACKING SYSTEM – Motivated Mom's is printed out in a small notebook by the telephone in the kitchen open with everything that kids and the babysitter can do highlighted.

Further Reading:
Sink Reflections (book), Motivated Moms (website), Motivated Mom's Chore Planner

Essential Tools:
Home Routines, Motivated mom's app, Motivated Mom's Chore Planner, Errands App
Circa/ Rollabind/ M by Staples customizable notebook.

3- Leverage Your Launchpads to Trigger Action
The places you use frequently should FOCUS you on your habits.

Identify Your launch pads. Make a list of places where you start work. Mine include:

  • Computer Desktop(s)
  • Start Bar on Left
  • My Documents
  • Browser Window Bars
  • Browser Start Page
  • First Screen and bar at the bottom of my iPod Touch.
  • Start Page of my Kindle
  • Top of my Desk(s)
  • Where I put my pocketbook and keys at home and at school.

For me, I want every space where I work to be functional, fun, and help me focus on the task at hand. I want even sitting at my desk to make me feel good.  That means clutter has to go! The Flylady in Sink reflections convinced me of that. Here are some tools and tricks that I use to organize my launchpads.

Computer Desktop
I got rid of EVERYTHING except computer, My User Folder, Web Browser and the 3 most important software programs. I pick the programs to help me focus on my goals. If I am working on taxes, I have Quickbooks and Quicken on my desktop. If website design is happening, I put Dreamweaver on there. I have a “shortcut” folder for everything else.

On my school computer (it is faster), the contents of the shortcut folder goes into the Google Gadget Quick Launch Panel. I also use Google Gadgets (which I Have found work better than the Windows gadgets.) My calendar is on my desktop in a gadget as is number of emails in my school inbox.

Start Bar on Left
Do you have anything

4 – Take Breaks

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere