My Card To-Do System

I get asked a lot… how do you juggle so many things, so many projects, people, hobbies and all that… well…  it’s fairly simple.

Here’s how I do it.


I used to be a list maker.

Really, a crazy list maker, change it every day, keep books with lists and papers all over the place and on my computer and I think I probably spent at least an hour a day reviewing my lists and re-writing them and keeping them up to date and then storing a LOT of stuff in my head because I would forget to get it on a list.

Something had to change.  It wasn’t working.  I would forget things, or get lost down a rabbit trail or just didn’t seem to accomplish much.   My lists would carry through day after day, simple little 10 minute things that I was procrastinating over.  It was dreadful.

Then I accidentally stumbled over David Allen and his Getting Things Done system of organization!   Oh my gosh, it was amazing and so enlightening to me.  I watched his video on YouTube and then I Googled him and found more things to look at and read.   I ordered his book off Ebay right away and as soon as it arrived… I was totally absorbed in the GTD system.

However, it was a little more geared toward people with offices and breifcases and all that, so I thought about it for awhile and decided to simplify it a little bit to work for me.


David Allen talks about using folders for all your projects and things going on.   Well, that just seemed a little overkill for me since so many of my projects are online based and don’t have much paperwork attached to them and well, I just didn’t want to spend the money on the files and such.  I had a big stash of 3 x 5 cards and they are pretty cheap even if do run out of my homeschoolin’ stash… so I went with index cards.

At first I was trying to make it too complicated.

I wanted colored cards for different aspects of life, and tried to get different groupings and all and then I thought, no, it’s all got to be done.  So I ditched all that. Generally speaking, I can only do one thing at a time, efficiently.

Basically, EVERYTHING you need to do, you write a card for.   From calling the plumber about a water heater, to getting a piece of trim for the bathroom, to editing a website, anything.  And be careful not to make the cards too vague… like   “Redecorate bathroom”.  Too big and too vague.   Make it in chunks that you are likely to do as a project.   Say… Paint Bathroom   and then…   Install new towel racks….  and then…   get new curtains for bathroom.   That sort of thing.

Here’s the best part.  You can shuffle all your cards around as you need to.   You can easily review them, pull out a few for the day and focus on those cards until they are done.

And when they are done, you throw out the card.

That feels pretty good.  It’s done, it’s gone, it’s a relief!


Every morning, I look through my deck of cards and select out the ones that need to be done.  I take those and tuck them into this little copy holder I got at the office store and put them in order of which I need to focus on.

The rest get clipped and set in my desk drawer.   Out of sight and not weighing heavy on my mind like they do when you have a to do list a mile long.

One thing I noticed after I had done my first brain dump…  and began to trust that I had all my to-dos on card…. I began to sleep better at night.  No longer did I lay there and try and remember all the things that I didn’t have on my list!  It was on the cards and safe. Even appointments, dates, anything that has to be done at a certain time.. it was on a card.


It’s so simple, that is works.

I like best is that I don’t have to keep a zillion little things in my head.   I did a HUGE “brain dump” when I first started the system.  I even wrote down personal social things I wanted to do and hadn’t gotten to.  ANYTHING that I needed to get done.  I had over 160 cards!!!!  It was insane.

And I almost stopped right there and paniced over it.   But that is the brilliance of the system.  I went through them and sorted out into two piles… now and later.   And then I took the now and found all the little jobs… 5-30 minutes.  And I started on those.

It’s like eating an elephant.  You just can’t possibly do it all in one sitting.  And that panicy,  to0 much to-do feeling tends to lead me to shutting down and doing nothing!   But having only a few cards on the table at a time, that just doesn’t happen very much anymore for me.  Some days, I’m lucky to get get one card done!!!   And if the day is particularly stressful or busy, I might only have ONE card on my desk to focus on.

I’m convinced that multi-tasking is a myth that over-stressed, too busy,  people fool themselves that they are getting SO much done, but really all they are doing is putting out fires that spring up everywhere and at the end of the day, they are pretty much where they started.    Nothing much accomplished except for the exhaustion of fighting all the fires that were most likely caused by their own inability to focus and get things done.

Since I’ve started the card system, I have VERY few fire days.   In fact, I find that I am so much more in control of what I am doing that I can take on even more now!  I’m down to about 35-40 cards at any given time.   I add cards to the deck, anytime something comes to mind…  oil change for the van, or send a card to a friend, or change graphic banners on a website….  anything.   And I have a personal goal of 5 cards a day to accomplish.  I always try to make sure it’s a nice mix of cards…  mostly work, a few personal, a few that are only 30 minutes or less, and one good project for the day.

If you find yourself with too many cards, then it gives you the reminder that you don’t need to take more projects on until you get your cards down to a comfortable level.

And what is nice, if you have kids or a spouse, or business associates… you can hand them the card and delegate that task to them.   When I give one to my children, I ask them to return it to me when it’s done.  And they do.

Works good with my kids because they can focus on the one task at hand.  No more giving them a whole list that confuses them and then you get mad when nothing gets done.  A card at a time and the THINGS GET DONE!

It works great… you should give it a try.

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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


My Card To-Do System — 1 Comment

  1. Great post! This has inspired me to rework my own To Do system. Things just haven’t been working real well lately.