GTD for Homemakers: The Types of Lists to Keep

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31 Days to GTD for Homemakers & Homeschoolers

As I develop this 31 Days to GTD for Homemakers series, I’ll be lining out the steps to setting up and implementing key strategies to keeping life – even home and family life – running without the stresses caused by forgetfulness, procrastination, and misplaced items.

Previous Post: Processing Tips for Achieving Inbox-Zero

What Makes a List?

One thing I love about David Allen’s Getting Things Done is that he defines his terms clearly and precisely:

The list is just a way for you to keep track of the total inventory of active things to which you have made a commitment, and to have that inventory available for review.

When I refer to a “list,” keep in mind that I mean nothing more than a grouping of items with some similar characteristic.

Who would have thought that a definition of “list” would be necessary, yet it is helpful. His definition banishes images we might conjure of beautiful, orderly, neat lists kept by an OCD perfectionist. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or, to play on the Nester’s motto, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beneficial.

List-Making: Earning Your Black Belt

Now that you’ve collected all your random ideas and tasks and listed them on paper need to get all those pending items “put away.”


Most of them will go into lists, but you need the right ones. Have you decided how you will keep lists? Electronically? Paper-based? Stored in folders? Clipboards? Binders? Binder-clipped index cards? Ideally, you’ll have one consistent way to gather incoming notes and information and ideas and one consistent place (or program) for all your lists to go. However, I don’t think anyone lives in the ideal world of forms. So, think, experiment, and see what works best for you. Even once you figure it out, it will probably change as your life changes, too, so you’ll have to reassess occasionally.

“Really?” You might ask, “This all boils down to lists?” Allen anticipates skepticism:

Lots of people have been making lists for years but have never found the procedure to be particularly effective. There’s rampant skepticism about systems as simple as the one I’m recommending. But most list-makers haven’t put the appropriate things on their lists, or have left them incomplete, which has kept the lists themselves from being very functional.

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Now, these are some of the lists, or categories of lists, you will need:

  • Next Actions (formerly known as To Do List)

  • Agendas

  • Projects

  • Waiting For

  • Someday/Maybe

  • Checklists

The Next Actions list contains whatever task is next on any and all of your active projects, which are also on your projects list. It is the master list with what must be done to move your projects forward. The Projects list is like an index — a reference to what is going on in your life and mind. The Waiting For list tracks tasks you have delegated. The Someday/Maybe list contains thoughts and ideas and projects that are not current, but that you might want to consider in the future. It includes keeping ideas, thoughts, notes, and inspiration for future plans. Checklists are reminders of the steps of procedures or routines that you want to make habitual, but as yet are not.

However you decide to keep your lists, and whatever lists you decide you need, remember that you want each to be functional at a glance. It should be plain (at least to you) upon a quick look what the list contains and what it means. Tweak your implementation until you achieve that goal. If you have to stare at and interpret your list every time you refer to it, it will be as much a hindrance as a help.

The way you keep your lists is a logistical issue, unique to yourself; so experiment until the logistics do work for you.

Next Post: The Next-Actions List

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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.