Planning Question: When do you look at your lists?

January 22, 2020

Recently, a reader asked this interesting question. It’s all well and good to keep 398734 lists in your planner (or accessory notebook, as the case may be). But when is it necessary/helpful to actually LOOK at these lists?

Some people may resent having a specific suggested interval, and that’s okay. I think that for some people they just know when they need to look. It can be a holistic organic process for some.

For me, I prefer to be a little more systematic. But my system is (fairly) simple:

  • I look at my weekly list every day.
  • I look at my monthly list every week.
  • I look at my quintile list every month.
  • I look at my yearly list AND my someday/maybe lists and do a general flip-through of my notebook every quintile.

I try NOT to look more than this. Sometimes it’s fun to glance at my monthly list on a random day to see how I’m doing. Or to remind myself of my 20 for 2020 goals. But generally, I do best when I only see what I need to see. It prevents me from feeling overwhelmed, and also protects me from overloading myself. For example, yesterday was a GME day. I looked at my schedule landscape, assigned myself what seemed like a reasonable number of tasks from my weekly list, and then stopped when I had checked those items off.

(Of course there were some random small fires to put out as well that came in via calls/texts/email — but luckily nothing too bad).

One thing I have been doing more of is putting small-but-time-sensitive tasks directly onto daily pages. This only works if getting the task done won’t take up significant time/energy — ie, it won’t be a terrible surprise to see that I need to renew library books online (takes about 30 seconds) or cancel my membership (took about 45 seconds). It’s nice to not waste space on my weekly goals list or mental energy transferring from weekly –> daily with these kinds of tasks.

Shown below: weekly list (on left). Mostly work stuff that week, but it definitely varies!


  • Reply CBS January 22, 2020 at 6:54 am

    I have 2020 goals, monthly lists, weekly lists, and daily to dos. I look at my 2020 goals when constructing my monthly lists, look at monthly goals when constructing weekly and daily goals. My weekly list exists separately from my planner though as I’m using a A5 muji monthly planner and there isn’t enough room. I actually quite like to be able to have my monthly and weekly list open at the same time. And my daily list is on a small piece of paper, made the night before. I used to do quarterly goals (or by academic term) but honestly, I think I would feel overwhelmed and focus on the small, easy to knock off tasks than the big substantive ones so this is something I’m experimenting with.

  • Reply Liz B. January 22, 2020 at 7:09 am

    I have listened to BOBW’s Plannerpalooza ep. 20 a billion and two times just to admire your systematic approach to planning with lists! I started using lists shortly in a similar fashion after listening to ep. 20, but I haven’t quite graduated to using the Cousin. I always get hung up on having to flip between the weekly and daily pages. I have tried several different separate weekly systems (e.g., Biz Grid, A6 weekly supplement, printed weekly inserts, etc.), but always end up back in my Hobonichi Weeks, due to size and portability. I’m currently not planning on a separate daily page, rather I’m dividing the blank page to the right of the Weeks’ weekly spread into daily to-do lists.

    Do you actually flip between your weekly and daily pages in the Cousin when planning your day, or do you take a picture of your weekly pages? I know it’s such a minor issue, but I’m so curious how you do it, since flipping pages drives me batty for some odd reason.

    • Reply Zulema January 22, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      Read your comment…searched the episode. lol.

  • Reply Gillian January 22, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I just started using the Techo in 1/1/20 and I am really liking it. I used to use a planner with only weekly pages and then 3 weeks in to 2019 I found I needed daily pages and ended up using loose daily pages which I found cumbersome. I am really liking having Monthly, Weekly and Daily pages all in one place. I was showing it off to a colleague yesterday–she may have thought I was crazy, but it works for me

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly January 22, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    I really love this way of approaching your lists! I get really overwhelmed if I look at the whole list so this method is perfect.

  • Reply Zulema January 22, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I enjoyed this post and the previous one. It made me think about why I would forget things. Because I don’t have a system of looking at my lists. So I will be incorporating this to my schedule so I am on track of the important things in my life. Thank you.

  • Reply Katie January 22, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I’m still figuring this out, but I get very overwhelmed looking at my monthly to do list too often. I need to be more disciplined about setting a routine to look at it and then NOT checking back excessively. For some reason, seeing everything listed out stresses me out even if I know that it will all get done in time.

    • Reply LEE January 22, 2020 at 10:04 pm

      I totally agree

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