On Managing To-Do Lists

The last few months have been scheduled to the brim. Although our issues are very much “first world problems,” managing our overflowing schedule has been a struggle. After purchasing our cottage a few months ago, we have found ourselves juggling endless things to do and to buy, each with its own set of complicated steps. Since the cottage is on Keats Island, we often have extra things to consider when taking items over. Since our car only fits us and the stuff for one trip (bin & cooler & other small items), we often have to make a special trip with anything larger. This means finding a spot in the week where we can both pick up and take the larger item to the boat, without the kids (since the car seats need to be removed to fit the bulky item), or arranging for it to be shipped on the water taxi (like we did with the mattress and golf cart). We only have one car, and some set evenings that the car is in use for activities, so scheduling is key.

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Buying a boat (though super exciting) was more complicated and time-consuming than we expected. It took us about 4 months and 3 brokers to accomplish. Once that was done, it came with its own set of lists: things to fix, equipment to buy, mooring to secure. And of course, learning how to drive it. Each step has its own set of steps yet again, it seems. To get the mooring, we had to deal with local politics, make a trip out to choose & measure the depth of the spot, order the custom buoy and chain / rope, have those delivered, work with someone to order the mooring anchor and then finally we’ll drop the anchor once it’s all assembled. This has taken weeks and endless phone calls as well as quite a large learning curve on our part. 

Yes, we’re accomplishing a lot of stuff in a very short period of time, but it’s not been easy. Since we’ve been juggling so many projects at once, I’ve found the key to our sanity has been careful planning on both our calendar and in our list app. I wanted to share some of our tips for staying on top of so many projects.

If you find your To-Do lists growing exponentially, or your calendar filling up, I suggest the following:

  • Divide and conquer – share your to do list with your partner, if you can. When one of us feels overwhelmed with too many items on our list, we split up the tasks. Additionally, there have been many nights or days where one parent has to take over solo parenting so the other can run around getting ‘stuff’ done
  • Set aside time to make calls – I find that it’s more efficient to set aside a block of time to make many calls at once than to field or make many calls throughout the day
  • Use your calendar for everything – My husband and I have shared calendar streams, as well as personal streams. This way, we don’t book things on days when the other is not free. Most of our days overflow, but that’s ok. It’s nice to know exactly when everything needs to happen and to be able to spot days or times when you can book in meetings or shopping trips.
  • Manage your lists in an app – we use the app ShopShop, which is by no means glamorous, to manage all our shopping lists and to do lists. The app is shared in the cloud, so if one of us updates the list, it’s reflected in all versions. We have granular lists, from a regular grocery list to lists for the cottage (one food, one ‘stuff’), the boat, and specialty stores like Costco. For projects, I’ll often create a to-do list as well. 
  • Work backwards & keep it granular – if we know the final step in a project, I find it best to set a date for that (if possible), then work backwards, scheduling in all the tasks that run up to the completion of the project. Marking out individual steps to anything makes them easier to tick off (this is also how I work on decluttering our home). 
  • Co-ordinate projects – if we know we’re taking a trip to Keats, I try to think of which project could be completed prior to that date. For example, which large things could be arranged to take onto the boat, or which specific items could be taken to finish certain renovations on the island. Space is limited, so items get checked off based on both space and priority. 
  • Meal plan once a week – who has time to think of meals and grocery shop? We try to take most of the thought out of dinners (which for us happen at 5pm, so we need to be organized) by meal-planning and doing our grocery shopping once a week. Our shopping is a combination of delivery with Spud and local grocery stores (Save-On-Foods, Loblaws) with occasional trips to Whole Foods or Costco for specialty items. If we’re eating seafood or a meat other than ground beef, I’ll often make a day-of visit to a butcher or seafood store, since we prefer both fresh and organic whenever possible.
  • Schedule in downtime – make sure you have days that don’t involve endless errands. Get out and enjoy some relaxation too. 

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