There are so many different ways to organize, prioritize and classify-ize your tasks and responsibilities these days that you’d probably need a couple years just to sort through all of them on your own. You can have an organizer on your computer, your phone, in your pocket or a notebook, or even, if you’re short of paper, on your hand.
Even with all of the new ways to get organized, the most effective tool for me is still the simple, classic “To Do” list. My To Do list is nothing fancy, just a list of things that I need to accomplish. For some reason, this list motivates me to be smart with my time and get things done.
One of the reasons these lists are so effective is because they help you define what needs to be done. One of my favorite things to put at the top of a To Do list is “start a to do list” — that way I can cross something out right away! Nothing like building momentum right off the bat. This principle can be applied in any aspect of life. You can use a To Do list at work, at home, or even in relation to different goals you have. My wife and I have a sort of ‘To Do’ List in relation to our financial goals, and it has helped us get started and avoid wasting time.
Our financial ‘To Do’ list helps us in three ways:
The list helps us know what bills need to be paid and when they’re due, what major tasks or purchases we might have coming up, and perhaps most importantly, when we’re going to be paid. A well-defined To Do list answers all of the questions about what needs to be done and when, helping you use your time more effectively.
Get More Done
Because we’re using our time more effectively, we can use time we might have spent pouring over our budget or trying to find the electric bill in more productive ways. We can get back out making money, fine-tune our savings strategies, look for new ways to cut back, or quit thinking about money all together and go enjoy ourselves.
Meet Your Goals
We have all kinds of tasks on our list, both big and small. An easy way to design a list like this (if you’re using a word processing program or a notebook) is to use a list:
- Big Goal 1
- Little Goal A
- Little Goal B
- Big Goal 2
For example, if your big goal is to save $1,000 for your emergency fund, your “To Do” list could look like this:
- Save $1,000 Emergency Fund
- Save $75 from each bi-weekly paycheck for 4 months ($600)
- Take lunch to work 2/wk for 4 months and add savings ($25) to emergency fund
See how easy that is? Now you’ve got a goal, and you know exactly what you need to do for it! Of course you can substitute in anything you like.
The beauty of these lists is that they are completely scalable — that is, they grow with you. If you finish your emergency savings goal, you can just start your next goal: “Pay off car debt” or whatever it is on the nice line. Figure out how you’re going to do it, and brake the big “to do” down into smaller tasks and you’re well on your way to leveraging your simple list as an effective financial tool.
You don’t need anything special to start a to do list, either. You can put it on a piece of paper in your wallet, or a whiteboard in your kitchen, or keep it on your phone or computer. The “To Do” list is a completely customizable, easy-to-use financial (and life) tool for anyone.
Updated December 22, 2011 and originally published August 6, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.