The Lists and Tools I Use to Keep My Brain Clutter Free

lists productivity


As I slowly bring my blog back to life I come across entries like this that I wrote just a few years ago that makes me laugh. While I update the original post, I will add my current method (in bold) to document how things continue to evolve.

Whether you prefer sticky notes, pads of paper, notebooks, or electronic devices I encourage you to make lists for everything. The more you can free your mind the better. I keep a small notebook beside my bed so I can write things down before I go to bed (This I still do, but it is a part of my Bullet Journal). This frees up my mind up for better sleep.

Here are my ongoing lists, how I record them, and where I keep them:

  • Master To-Do: This is where I pull my Daily To-Do list from. It is essentially my Brain Dump. I have it in a word document for easy updating and I keep a printout in a folder with any corresponding paperwork. Today I use the same process, but the list resides in Evernote
  • Daily To-Do: I use a sheet of scrap paper and pen. Once I complete an item I remove it from this and my Master To-Do list. I will transfer any undone items to the next day and add more from the Master To-Do. I still use pen and paper but have recently implemented the Bullet Journal System. I am still in the early days of using this system and once I have used it for at least two months I will share my thoughts.
  • Cleaning and Home Maintenance: This is located in a spreadsheet with chores broken up by day of the week. Quarterly and semiannual items are noted as well. I have this hanging on the wall in my office. The spreadsheet still lives on! Sometimes simple is best.
  • Home Repair: Here I keep all the improvements we eventually want to make in a word document. This hangs on my husband's office wall. I guess you could call it his Honey-Do list although we do much of it together. This is now organized on a board in Trello.
  • Vacation Packing List: I keep this in a word document so I can print a new copy for each trip. It has everything for every kind of trip. I start by crossing anything off that doesn't apply to the current trip and then check each item as I pack. The word document still exists, but needs updating since my babies have grown into teens. 
  • Books to Read, Movies to Watch & Songs to Buy: I keep this in the notes app on my iPhone. This way it is with me when I am shopping. These lists are now notebooks in Evernote.
  • Shows to Watch: I consider my DVR a list. Still true today although Netflix is now taking over regular TV.
  • Misc. Ideas & Projects: Pinterest is my favorite new site! That gives an indication of how old the original post was. I have lost my love of Pinterest and now bookmark and organize things in Evernote.
  • Bills to Pay/Budget: Excel spreadsheet and Online Banking (I am working on a separate blog post for this) Wow I guess I let my blogging slide and never got to that post, but the excel spreadsheet is still my preferred method. Again, it is simple.
  • Account Information: This I have in a word document. I keep a printed copy in our safe deposit box. It has all our bank info, insurance info, credit card accounts, investments, and the names and addresses of our accountant and attorney. It only lists locations, not accounts. This is still true today, but I am due to update the list. I have made a note in my calendar to do so on a quarterly basis.
  • Shopping: Items are logged as needed on a whiteboard on the fridge. Before going to the store, I note the items on my Cozi iPhone app. I still use Cozi as my calendar, but the grocery list now lives in Evernote. Seeing a trend?
  • Goals: Lifetime, 10 years, 5 years, 1 year, monthly, and weekly: I use a program from Raymond Aaron with pre-printed forms, but a word document or journal would work well too. I now have all of this mapped out in Trello.
  • Birthdays and Special occasions: I have them set up to reoccur in my electronic calendar at Cozi.comStill true today!
  • Things I Am Grateful For: Daily gratitude journal. This daily exercise is uplifting and a great stress reducer. I have gotten out of this habit but plan to start again and make it part of my Bullet Journal.

In addition to these lists, each area of my business is mapped out in Trello. The great thing about lists is, even if you don't refer to them daily somehow most of the items get done. I believe the act of writing it down sets the plan in motion. 

I like to keep things simple and take the same approach to Clutter Removal with my lists. I have to either love or need to do a task. Items that I am unsure of go into a someday notebook in Evernote. I review that list once a year and then let go of what no longer serves me.

If you have a list that you don't see here send me an email. I would love to hear about it.