How To Use Lists To Stay On Top Of Life

13. November 2017 Organizing 9
How To Use Lists To Stay On Top Of Life

List Making For Non List Makers (Or List Lovers)


I’m Kathy and I’m a list-a-holic. I love making lists. In fact, I love making lists so much that I actually read a book on list making (*affiliate link).  My penchant for list-making is so obvious that when my oldest son was 5, he tried making a to do list like mama.


I should be embarrassed, but making lists is a great way to stay on top of things. It is also a good way to reduce your stress levels and can help you sleep better. When I’m under a lot of stress, I wake up at night thinking about all of the things I need to do. Once I write out a list, I sleep better because I know that I’m not forgetting to do something really important.


I used to rely on my brain to remember everything because I have a really good memory. The only time I’d need a list was when I was planning a business trip or event that had a lot of details. Once I had kids, that all went out the window. There are just too many things on my plate between parenting to dos, home to dos and work to dos that it is impossible to keep track of things. If you’re in the same boat but are resistant to lists, let me share my love of lists with you.


Benefits of List Making

A quick Google search will yield hundreds of articles on the benefits of list making. If you need to be convinced, here are my favorite reasons for making lists.


  • To Do Lists help you prioritize what you have on your plate.
  • To Do Lists help you remember small details.
  • To Do Lists help you organize your time and plan out your week.
  • To Do Lists help you break up large projects into manageable pieces.
  • To Do Lists help you keep track of long-term goals.



Types Of Lists And Where To Keep Them

If you are new to list making, here is a list of lists to make.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.


  • To Do List: Obviously, this is the most common list people make. I keep my to do list in my planner, but you can also keep a bullet journal full of to do lists, write lists on a Post It or have a notebook with your to do list in your purse. You can even keep an electronic to do list, using a free app like Cozi.


  • Shopping List: I keep a shopping list in the Notes section of my phone. I don’t just keep track of groceries, I also have a list of things I need for the house in case I come across something while out and I have a list of clothing the kids need so that I don’t overbuy one thing and fall short on something else. For example, my oldest has more than enough pants and short-sleeve shirts, but doesn’t have many shorts. On the other hand, my youngest has tons of shorts and short-sleeve shirts but has just a few pairs of pants and long-sleeve shirts. I don’t want to buy the wrong thing for the wrong kid because we are space limited.


  • Home Projects: I keep a running list of home projects I want to do in my planner. That way, if I happen to have a bit of spare time (rarely), I know exactly what I want to work on. I also have a list of measurements on my phone in case I see a great deal on something. For example, I have a list of window measurements for my living room because I have a huge wall of windows. Curtains for that space are pricey so if I’m out and see a deal, I’ll be able to snatch it up on the spot instead of having to go home and measure first. The same goes for the space under my microwave. I need something to go underneath that can act as storage but it is an unusual space so I keep the measurements on my phone in case I come across a possibility.


  • Entertainment: I have a list of books I want to read, as well as books I want for my kids. I even keep a list of my favorite books to recommend to others. That way, when I don’t have something to read, I can go to the public library website to see if any of the books on my list are available. It also helps me remember books that are recommended to me since I have a lot of fellow book worm friends. Some people keep lists of movies or TV shows that want to watch so that when they finish a series, they can start a new one from their list.


  • Restaurants: I started this list in my planner after getting annoyed about the fact that I can never think of somewhere new to go when I need it. I was eating at the same handful of places. I now have a list of my favorite restaurants, as well as a list of restaurants to try. Living in Los Angeles, the list is very long!


  • Family Activities: There are so many places and things I want to do with the kids but for some reason, when we finally have a free day, I can’t remember anything and we end up at the park across the street. I started keeping a list of places and activities so that we don’t end up in a rut.


  • Gifts: I keep a list on my phone of sizes and likes for people I normally buy gifts for, in case I come across something. This helps me with my early holiday shopping, as well as when I’m buying birthday gifts. In addition to sizes and likes, I also have a “purchased” list to make sure I don’t overbuy for one person and scrimp on another during the holiday shopping frenzy.


  • Travel: I keep a list of favorite hotels in cities that we visit regularly (like San Diego) and places I want to go. I started this list after staying at a hotel that I really disliked twice because I didn’t remember the name of it so booked it again!


  • Contacts and Details: I know we store phone numbers in our phones now, but I still have a contact list for important people on the refrigerator as well as a list of important medical contacts in my planner. For my medical contacts, I keep any important information I need for that contact next to it. For example, one of my prescriptions is delivered through a specialty pharmacy and the copay is $250 per month! Fortunately, the manufacturer offers a patient assist program that covers the copay, but I need the billing number when I call for a refill. I have it noted next to the pharmacy contact since that’s when I need it.


These are some of my favorite lists to make. Do you have any favorite lists? Do you prefer to keep them on paper or digital?


P.S. I share my favorite organizing tools here, if you’re looking to update your system.


Do you love lists? Even if you aren't super organized, you can be a list maker to wrangle your life details. Why to keep lists and types of lists to keep.

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9 thoughts on “How To Use Lists To Stay On Top Of Life”

  • 1
    Kimi Jones on November 13, 2017 Reply

    I’m the ultimate list-maker in my household, so I always have a dozen or more going on at once!

    • 2
      Kathy Macaraeg on November 13, 2017 Reply

      Same – I have lists for everything!

  • 3
    Tranneta's Travels on November 13, 2017 Reply

    Thats a great one!

    • 4
      Kathy Macaraeg on November 13, 2017 Reply

      Thank you!

  • 5
    Lauren on November 13, 2017 Reply

    I’m the same way!!! I have lists for everything – at work, I have a list for each day: if I finish something, I check it off, and if not it gets bumped to the following day! Works like a charm and that way nothing falls through the cracks!

    • 6
      Kathy Macaraeg on November 13, 2017 Reply

      Every time I slack on making a to do list, I drop the ball. My brain just can’t hold all the details anymore. I need my lists!

  • 7
    Christine on November 13, 2017 Reply

    I also have my everyday to-do list. I like to check off the things that I’ve done and feel like more productive. I’m keeping most of the lists you mentioned above and I like to write them down on paper.

  • 8
    Tanya on November 14, 2017 Reply

    I use the computer to keep a master list of home and work. It is a brain dump list that holds all those things that run around in my head.
    Then I can organize from there. Stops the Monkey Mind!

    • 9
      Kathy Macaraeg on November 14, 2017 Reply

      It’s great to have a spot for all of the info floating in our head. I prefer pen/paper + phone because I don’t tend to turn on my computer once I’m “off” work, but if the computer works well for you, stick with what works:-)

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