Everyday life can be chaotic sometimes. Between soccer practice and PTA meetings, grocery shopping and cooking dinner, running errands and paying bills, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. One way to avoid feeling stressed is to have a game plan ready. You may not need one every day, but on those days when you have a lot to do, prioritizing can help you get things done in a more efficient manner.
Once you have decided what is on the schedule for a given day, there are many tools and tricks that can help you get it all done. From simple lists to applications for your phone or computer, help can range from the very basic to high-tech. What works best for you is what you will end up sticking with.
Getting everything done may seem like an impossible task, but when you find ways to prioritize, you might find that some things are more important than others, and that some can be crossed off your list completely. It's all about knowing what needs to be done and finding the most efficient way to do it.
In this article, we'll cover tools and tips for putting your daily tasks in order and keeping track of them. So go ahead and make that list of what needs to be done, and then check out the next page for tips on how to clear everything off it in a more fun, efficient and cost-effective way.
Mapping out Your Errand Schedule
When you have a long list of things to do, you may feel you'll never be able to get it all done. One idea is to map out what you will be doing and where. For example, if you have to go downtown to pick up the dry cleaning, then dropping off that overdue book at the nearby library on the way can save you a trip. However, if you don't plan out your route, you may find yourself making multiple trips when just one could have sufficed. Gas can be costly, so making unnecessary trips can be bad for the budget. Save yourself both time and money by thinking about where you need to go and determining whether you can accomplish multiple tasks at the same time.
If you have errands to run that are within walking distance from home, consider getting them done on foot instead. It might take a little longer than driving would, but instead of piling your children into the car, put them into the stroller and walk if weather permits. Is walking the dog on that to-do list? Bring him along. You can achieve your post office run and walk the dog all while getting some exercise at the same time.
When mapping out your daily errands, leave yourself plenty of time to get things done. Many people find it difficult to balance running errands with work or spending time with family, and procrastinating will only add to that feeling of stress.
Lists and game plans are can help you keep track of your tasks, but they don't always work out exactly the way you expect. Your list should be only a guide to help you manage your time, so don't get too down on yourself if you don't get everything accomplished. If there are certain tasks you absolutely have to get done by a certain date or time, make sure you list them as priorities. Check out the next section for tools that can help you to prioritize your to-do list.
Tools for Prioritizing Daily Errands
Learning to prioritize can help you finish tasks faster while ensuring that the most important ones don't get lost in the shuffle. However, keeping track of everything that must be done can also be a bit of a challenge. There are numerous techniques to help you get organized, many of which might already be in your home.
If you enjoy writing things down, a desk or wall calendar with a sidebar for a list of errands may be your best bet. These tools are usually inexpensive and can be purchased from your local office supply store. The downside is that the large versions might not be as handy to carry around, so you may want to keep a smaller version for traveling.
Another option is to keep an electronic calendar. These days almost everyone has a cell phone, and depending on the make and model, yours may have a built-in calendar. You can make lists and put in important dates, which your phone can conveniently remind you of as the dates approach. Smart phones have plenty of organizational programs you can download, many of which are free and will allow you to input tasks and view customized maps of the most efficient routes to your errand destinations.
A growing trend at many companies, and even in some households, is to hire a professional organizer. This is someone whose job it is to help you manage your time in the most organized way possible. You may not need to go to such an extreme, but if you'd like to give it a try, many organizations offer great tips and free consultations on their Web sites.
Aside from calendars and lists, there are also plenty of software options available to help you organize your daily errands. For information on helpful and innovative computer programs, check out the next page.
Want a high tech way to track your daily errands? There are many software programs available to help you do this. Some are more advanced than others, allowing you to plot your errand destinations on a map or generating lists that can be exported to any number of handheld devices.
Here are a few home computer options to help you get started:
- ListPro is a program for Windows that creates customizable to-do lists. Anything you enter can be shared on Web sites, transferred to your handheld Windows device or exported as a news feed [source: Ilium Software].
- AnyTime Organizer is another Windows-based program that allows you to organize appointments, errands, deadlines and more. You can customize your own personal datebook, and export data to a handheld device [source: Individual Software].
- BusyCal is a Mac operating systems application that helps you create a desktop calendar that can be synchronized and shared with others. You can create to-do lists and set up reminders for birthdays, anniversaries and due dates [source: Version Tracker].
If you need something on the go, you could try Errand Tracker, an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This software allows you to organize all your to-do items and plots them on a map. As you complete an action, the program allows you to check it off the list and remove it from the map.
However you decide to organize your daily errands, it's important not to stretch yourself too thin. If you need to, pencil in a relaxing day at the spa or just some time to relax by yourself so you don't get overwhelmed.
For more information on keeping your daily tasks organized, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- AquaNotes. (Accessed 1/8/10).http://www.myaquanotes.com/
- Amazon. "Anytime Organizer Deluxe 12." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0013FBFG4/ref=s9_simi_gw_s0_p65_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0QM27HA5BNQXY3YRTXNV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846
- Barakat, Ibtisam S. and Janet Clark. "Challenges and Choices: Stress Management -- The Challenge of Balance." University of Missouri Extension, Department of Consumer and Family Economics. (Accessed 1/8/10)http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH6651#reduction
- Bozworth, Carole G. "Challenges and Choices: Time Effectiveness -- Prioritizing Your Time." University of Missouri Extension, Department of Consumer and Family Economics. (Accessed 1/8/10).http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH6653
- California Polytechnic State University. "Procrastination." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://www.sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/procrastination.html
- CNET. "Errand Tracker." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://download.cnet.com/Errand-Tracker-Shopping-List-and-Grocery-Gadget/3000-2124_4-75023113.html
- Computer Geeks. "1.5" DI15-DD1 Color LCD USB Digital Photo Viewer Keychain." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=DI-15D1-RED-PB&cat=GDT
- Ilium Software. "ListPro."http://www.iliumsoft.com/site/lp/listpro.php
- Individual Software. "Anytime Organizer."http://www.individualsoftware.com/software/personal_organizer/anytime_organizer/
- LifeOrganizers.com. "The Organized Schedule." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://lifeorganizers.com/cm_articles/51_the_organized_schedule.html
- McLaren, Warren. "The Wind-Up iPod: Trevor Baylis' Eco Media Player." TreeHugger.com. (Accessed 1/8/10)http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/11/the_windup_ipod.php
- Version Tracker. "BusyCal - 1.1.2." (Accessed 1/8/10).http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/10964715