If you have not noticed it by now, let me say again that one of my biggest pet peeves is wasted time. When you are as busy as I am every minute needs to be used productively and wisely. Since being so busy can mean that your mind is focused on a million things, to-do lists can be a great way to keep track of what needs to get done. They ensure that no time is wasted and that nothing slips through the cracks.
With the summer coming, I know most of you are asking “Why are we still talking about being busy? School is over.” Well, you are right. With classes, papers, studying, and commuting out of the way our schedules open up a lot over the summer. Which is precisely why I want to talk about to-do lists and using time wisely. If you are like me you build up a list of things you want to do or need to do over the fall and spring semesters, things that fall through the cracks, things we just do not have time for. Since we have this break from the craziness of school, why not use our time productively and wisely? Why not wipe the “to-do slate” clean for the coming fall?
Most people think of to-do lists as a quick laundry list of things to get at the store or to fix around the house. Let me help you revolution your way of thinking about these lists. I guarantee you (as I do all the time) think of things you need to do or want to do, but forget them, and so they end up never getting done. Think of a movie you really wanted to see or a book you have been meaning to read. If you forget about them they are gone forever, but if you put them on a list they are put aside for later. Now think of this summer’s to-do list as a culmination of all the things you did not have time for in the past year. You have three (or so) months now to tackle these things and get them done before classes start back up in the fall.
So what kinds of things go on a summer to-do list? The possibilities are endless. Why not start that diet you have been putting off, apply for that job you think will work well with your schedule in the fall, or start keeping a journal like you have been meaning to do? The things on your list do not even have to be this broad or time-consuming. Why not catch up on your favorite shows so that you can watch them when they return in the fall, read that book your professor recommended, or clean out that overgrown closet of yours? Anything you think you should get done over the summer to help you when you get busy again in the fall is a good idea. I personally like to add other things to, like goals I have for myself that will help me to better myself for the coming school year.
So how do you get this master plan list? It can get a lot more complicated than you think, especially when you have a year’s worth of things you want to catch up on. To keep it simple and organized I have come up with five ways to come up with a productive summer to-do list:
- Give your list a title or theme. This will help you narrow down the goals you have for your summer and the things you want to accomplish. A list that is too diverse can have you running in all directions, but a list of to-do’s centered around one general theme can help you grow and learn. Think about a to-do list focused around resume building. Or, one concerned with nurturing your social life. There are dozens of things that could go on each list, but each one has a general theme and purpose to keep you centered.
- Do not keep it short. Giving yourself a set number of to-do’s can be the cause of letting those little to-do’s slip through the cracks yet again. Put everything you think is important on the list, no matter how small. If you think something is too small or not worth your time later on, you can always cross it off.
- Be thorough. The key to a to-do list is brainstorming, and brainstorming a lot. For one particular to-do list I might work for three or four days, writing down things that come to mind, reorganizing them, rethinking them, re-reorganizing them, adding on, and tweaking items here and there. A list that you take a day to make can end up leave things out, things that are important.
- Use subgroups. When I am done making a to-do list it often times looks like a tree chart. One item branches out into four, which each themselves branch out into two more items. Using this process allows you to list a general item on the list (let’s say “live a healthier lifestyle”), then break it down (“start eating healthier food”, “start exercising”, and ”learn how to better cope with stress”), and break it down to its simplest form (“research healthy eating habits” or “read new research regarding stress relieving methods”). Through this technique each item gives you an overview or a goal, followed by subgroups that explain and plan out how to go about accomplishing the goal.
- Write it down. Keeping a list in your mind is a romantic idea, but let’s be honest, can you really remember everything? Writing things down not only helps us remember what to do, but it can help us organize (remember step four?). Also, by writing things down and checking them off, we feel a sense of accomplishment in seeing what we have gotten done. This helps us to not become discouraged.
I hope this post helps you as you embark on a fun-filled summer. Remember, this summer can be anything you want it to be: productive and inspiring, or lazy and useless. Making a list now can help you get a jump-start on what you want to do and how you plan to do it. Keep it simple and keep it posted somewhere you will see it everyday to remind you to keep working hard.
I hope everyone is kicking butt on those finals. School is almost over so keep working hard and think about making a summer to-do list. What do you want to get out of your summer? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to get caught up on? And more importantly, in September when you are filling out job and scholarship applications, how will you answer the question, “What did you do this past summer?” Enjoy your summers and your two minutes of procrastination.