GTD for Homemakers: Set Up Consistent Calendars & Lists

posted in: extra 7

31 Days to GTD for Homemakers & Homeschoolers

This series, 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers, is all about putting into place effective routines and processes so that the routine administratiive details of life do not cause undo stress and we, as mothers in the heart of our homes, can peacefully and intentionally make good choices about what to do without feeling like we have a million details pulling us in a million directions at once.

Previous Post: Establish Physical Containers: Inboxes, Launchpad, & To-Read Stack

Guard Your Calendar

Getting Things Done has some very specific and hard-nosed rules about what does and does not belong on our calendars. The calendar is not a place to keep to-do lists or notes. Calendar space should be guarded, honored space. He admonishes us to only add to our calendars what truly must happen that day or specific time: the doctor’s appointment, the birthday party, and other such commitments.

The principle is that your calendar should show you the “hard lines” of your day, around which you can fit in items from your task list and handle things as they arise.

I keep a Google calendar with several different calendars on one so I can see categories at a glance. Purple is my appointments & activities: the hard lines. Blue is my husband’s appointments & activities (he uses Google calendar at work). Teal is my menu plan; after all, these people insist on eating three times a day — I’d call that a hard line!

You can also use the calendar as an after-the-fact sort of journal tool: record your exercise time or your school hours or what you planted in your garden that day or anything else that encourages you to see recorded. But don’t put in “I should exercise” sorts of things on the calendar. After-the-fact recording is different than cluttering your calendar with wishful thinking.

Keep Your Lists

Of the making of lists there is no end.

So where will you make and keep lists? Lists of items needed, items to think about, thoughts about projects, notes about recipes or education, etc. etc. This isn’t the same as where you collect this information, but is where this information lives. Where will your lists, thoughts, bits of information be kept so that they can be useful to you?

This includes contacts lists, master grocery list, and to-do lists. There will be others, of course, but these are an important place to start. These are the ones that work hardest in keeping you organized.

A clipboard, a stack of index cards with a binder clip, a binder, a few file folders, a tabbed notebook, email, online or software-based programs, anything can work so long as you keep it consistent. Personally, I use Remember the Milk for my tasks (everything from “make a dentist appointment” to “load and run the dishwasher.” I can enter a task and tell it to pop up a month or a year from now, and I can make tasks like washing the dishes repeatable. RTM also integrates smoothly with Gmail; right now I have it in my calendar sidebar, and that’s the screen I try to keep as default. It also has a fully functional app, though a free account can only sync once a day.

I can even set it to repeat a specific amount of time after I’ve completed it. So, for example, I have set myself the task of checking my library account online every three days. Once I have done it, I check it done, and it sets itself to show up again in three days.

For lists of reference material (movies or books people suggest, freezer inventory, ideas, blog post notes) I keep a bajillion lists in Evernote.

I personally am tired of bent, wet, torn, and lost papers, and so have been moving to all-digital. I have found myself much more likely to jot a note in Evernote than I would have been to jot a note on a piece of paper because it doesn’t take up any more physical space, it doesn’t become one more thing to have around and keep track of, and if I want the information a quick search on the search bar pulls up anything relevant.

In fact, I have an entire eBook devoted to walking you step by step through setting up a household organization planner digitally, using your Gmail inbox & calendar, RTM, and Evernote: Paperless Home Organization. After all, isn’t the point of a smartphone or tablet really so we have all the information we need when we need it? But it takes a plan and some set-up time to get it to really work for us.

Of course, physical paper is also a very reasonable option. Clipboards, binders, planners, the options abound. Decide on how you want to keep things, set it up, and stick to it.


Mystie’s book, Declutter Your Head will walk you through the process of clearing your head and organizing your home so you can take calm, intentional action. Also available on kindle.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.

7 Responses

  1. Sarah
    | Reply

    So, are your digital devices on all of your waking hours? How do you collect thoughts when you’re away from your gadgets? Back to paper, I assume?

    I would love to go digital, but I need to shut down electronics just to stay away from the Internet. If I tried to keep my freezer inventory on my laptop, I’d soon be surfing for recipes for ox tail and beef tongue.

    This is silly, but I’ve been hung up all week on collecting the open loops because I can’t get past where to collect them. I started with a 15 cent notebook, switched to index cards, then recopied everything to my purse calendar which has lots of blank pages in the back. Of all those ‘inboxes,’ the purse calendar is the easiest to tote around with me, but I could make action plans easier on the idex cards. I need the rest of story to figure out what direction this is going, Mystie. :) It’s coming, I know…

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      All the open loop collections will end up being tossed during the processing phase, so how and where you collect them doesn’t matter except in terms of convenience and preference. :) First is collection, then it’s setting up where the collected stuff goes (where the series is now), then it’s getting the collected stuff into the set up places (processing).

      For brain-dump collection times, I do usually use a notebook or scrap paper, but yes, I usually do have a digital device at hand. For almost a year I had an iPad, but I sold that and now have a small MacBook Air (it’s practically the same size as the iPad). Somehow, being able to close it and not see the big monitor staring at me helps. I also have an old iPod Touch that I got out of the habit of using when I had the iPad, but that will be my in-the-back-pocket collector (and calculator, timer, calendar, contacts, etc. etc.) as soon as I’m back into clothes that have pockets (dratted maternity wear!). :)

      Getting stuck on brainlessly browsing the web is a real temptation and danger, though. I have been known to ask my husband to schedule the router so there’s no wifi in the house during my key school & housework times. :)

      • Sarah
        | Reply

        So helpful, Mystie. Thank you for the additional information. I feel free to move forward now.

        I didn’t know the iPod Touch could do all those things you mentioned. My soon-to-be 15 y.o. daughter has been saving her money for one; I need to have her enlighten me, I guess. :)

        I’m enjoying both of your series (this one and the Simplified Menu Planning series). I inventoried and did a yearly cleaning in one of my deep freezes today. And I was serious about needing a recipe for beef tongue. I have two!!!

        • Mystie Winckler
          | Reply

          Crockpot? My butcher said she likes to grind them and mix them with hamburger.

          The iPod Touch can do everything an iPhone can do except send and receive calls. Mine is a pre-camera generation (2G, I think) and I got it on Craigslist. Watching on CL is definitely worth it. :)

        • Meredith_in_Aus
          | Reply

          I find using my ipod touch for most things is the best. I used to keep losing my many notebooks around the house, so they were practically useless to me ’cause I could never find the right one with a particular list in it so I’d start another! I don’t lose my ipod because I now carry it with me in a (flat) bum bag/travel money pack (I think you would refer to them as a fanny pack?). Wearing this has also meant I have a pen, an eraser, and a sharpener on hand at all times for use during homeschooling. Indespensible! AND, Mystie, it’s easy to wear when nursing.

          In Him


          • Mystie Winckler

            I’ll have to look into something like that. I had the same problem with paper lists and notebooks. I also like the built-in timer & alarm app on the iPod Touch. Unfortunately, mine is now too old and couldn’t upgrade to the latest iOS version and therefore now can’t run the Evernote app. :/ But for collecting I can use it to send myself an email or use SimpleNote and process it into Evernote later.

  2. Jen in Oz
    | Reply

    I am using a Samsung tablet with Colornote, Evernote and the Pen Memo option for all my lists. Colornote takes care of the lists that get used again and again like task lists, routines, camping packing lists etc. Evernote is more of a reference type place for lists/notes for upcoming projects or events, or I send completed lists there so I have records of the last time a big job like washing all the household curtains was done. PenMemo is used more for notes on the run. It has to be synced manually so it isn’t my regular list/note place. My Samsung Galaxy 7.7″ is a bit too big for a bum bag but it sits nicely beside me and is great to hand to the preschooler for a little distraction while I school others.

    Best wishes
    Jen in Oz

    PS Loving this series. I seriously need to take notes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *