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Low Maintenance To-Do List: A Simple Template for Disorganized Creative Workers

Updated on July 24, 2012

Creative workers tend to be a little bit scatter-brained. It’s what makes them good at what they do. But being ADD and disorganized means that most of these folks end up being unproductive. So the creative work they’re so good at never gets done.

The problem is, when creative types want to be productive, they read books like Getting Things Done, by David Allen and they’re overwhelmed with the systems and logistics that have to be in place to be truly productive.

I’ve found that when I’m working in my daily grind, none of those fancy systems work for me. I need a to-do list that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance but still helps me get the job done.

To begin, however, we need to get clear about the one feature a to-do list needs to actually help you save time instead of eat time.

The first thing a to do list needs is to show you as much of your workload as possible. In other words, you need to be able to capture everything you need to get done on an ongoing basis and make it available for quick reference on your to-do list.

As I said before, there are all kinds of books that have different means of achieving that in a to-do list. But for our list, we’re going to strip it down to its essentials.

So to get create a to-do list with the least amount of upkeep effort and the greatest amount of output potential, I created a list with two categories of items, and stored it in a simple word document that I print every morning.

(I know printing on paper supposedly hurts trees, but since my to-do list is the only thing I print all day, and I use both sides of my paper, I’ve been able to justify it. Stick around and I’ll tell you why it’s important that you print your to-do list.)

To-Do List Category #1: Current Projects

The first part of this to-do list is labeled “current projects.” A project is anything that requires more than one action step. When you create this list, you don’t need to be paranoid about whether something you write down is an actual project.

It’s loosely defined because you’ll never have a perfectly segmented to-do list. Sometimes projects end up as a simple task and tasks end up as huge projects.

All you need to do is write down the current projects you’re working on.

To-Do List Category #2: Current Tasks

The second part of this to-do list is labeled “current tasks.” A task is simply an action step. Again, don’t get too caught up in clearly identifying which things are action steps and which are projects. Just go with your gut and keep moving.

Also, I should note here that there is no need to prioritize these tasks. I’ve found that prioritizing takes time. Most people have daily to-do lists that are short enough to where they can prioritize on the fly just by looking at their list.

The Key to Making This To-Do List a Success...

The thing that really makes this to-do list a success is printing it off. When you print it out, you can quickly jot down notes and add items or projects on the fly. All you need to do is transfer those notes into projects or to-do items for the next day’s to-do list.

Also, be sure to cross stuff off when you complete something. That’s a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many times I forget to cross stuff off and start feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work I have, only to be reassured that I’m making progress when I finally remember.

If you would like to download the template for this to-do list, simply visit the following link:


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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Could be useful, even for me prcheney. It's foolproof, so even the most scatty could see a way to use it, possibly as a template for a plan of their own - if they have/take the time to devise one. Take a sweetie from the box!

    • prcheney profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Cheney 

      5 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

      Glad I could help! Thanks for the comment howlermunkey :)

    • howlermunkey profile image

      Jeff Boettner 

      5 years ago from Tampa, FL

      Awesome hub, it's like you know me :). Thanks for the google docs "Simple To Do List" template, downloading now.


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