March 22, 2016  

List-Making Method: The Note Card To-Do List

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge list-maker. It’s in my DNA to make lists for everything. While I was making my to-list this past weekend, I realized that I’ve been holding out on you. I’m constantly testing out different list-making methods, tools and apps, but I haven’t done a great job of sharing all of those methods with you.

To-do lists aren’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s list-making style is different, and different methods work better for different things. Some methods are awesome for managing complex projects, while others are fantastic for keeping track of basic chores around the house.

This blog post has great advice for making a simple to do list with note cards. Love that idea!

Today marks the beginning of a brand new series on the blog called “List-Making Methods,” a series where all of us list-making fanatics get to geek out, and where those of you struggling with your to-do lists can find some advice and inspiration. My goal is to share a variety of list-making methods that I’m using so you are armed with plenty of ammo for being more productive and attacking your to-do list. If your to-do list isn’t working for you, it’s time to try out a different method! There’s more than one way to keep track of your to-dos.

This “List-Making Methods” series isn’t going to be a regularly scheduled one, it’s instead a common theme of blog posts I’ll be sharing throughout the year. Whenever I have a new list-making method I’m loving, either digital or paper, I’ll spill the details with you in a new installment in this series. Sound good? Awesome. Let’s dive into today’s list-making method: the note card to-do list.

What an awesome to do list system! So simple and basic, yet so effective. Must try this one.

Crush Your Week Promo Bar

Lately, I’ve been testing out a new to-do list method that I think you’re going to like because 1) it’s super basic, 2) it’s really cheap, and 3) it’s colorful. I’m calling it the “Note Card To-Do List Method.”

This method is so basic that I wondered if it was worth blogging about, but I’ve honestly been loving it so much that I just had to share. It’s not rocket science nor is it fancy, but it’s basic and it gets the job done. Well, I mean to say is that it gets the job of list-making done. I should disclose that it doesn’t actually do the work for you. I haven’t figured that one out yet, but when I find a list-making method that automatically cleans your house for you, I’ll be sure to let you know 😉

The Note Card To-Do List

I’ve been using this method primarily on the weekends when I have a lot of chores, errands and projects to do around the house. It’s really basic and flexible, which is perfect for those kinds of tasks.

For this to-do list, all you need is a pen and a pack of colorful note cards. You could use the boring white ones I suppose, but that’s no fun. This is your excuse to go to the office supply store and pick up a pack with fun colors. After all, colorful office supplies make any task better (that’s a fact).

I cut all of my note cards in half because I like the smaller size, and then I get twice as many cards out of my pack. You can decide if you prefer whole cards or halves.

This blog post has great advice for making a simple to do list with note cards. Love that idea!

Crush Your Week Promo Bar

For this method, each to-do gets its own note card. You write down all of your to-do’s and end up with a little stack of cards, as opposed to the numbered items you’d write on a traditional paper to-do list. When you have a lot on your mind, sit down with a stack of note cards and start writing everything down on individual cards. This is often called brain dumping.

Once you have your stack of to-dos, you can shuffle them up randomly (works great for a bunch of cleaning tasks you despise doing), you can sort them by priority or project, or you could divide them into smaller stacks and assign to days of the week. The beauty of writing your to-dos on separate cards is that you can rearrange them however you want, which makes this a very flexible method.

Once your list is sorted, it’s time to start tackling tasks one-by-one, beginning with the card at the top of your stack. I can’t help you much with this part. You just have to do whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You know, the hard part of list-making.

And my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E part about this process (and any list, for that matter) comes when you finish a task. You get the satisfaction of crumpling that task’s note card into a ball in your fist and throwing it in the trash can. That feeling of satisfaction is magical. Once you toss away one, you’ll want to keep that momentum going and see how many more cards you can crumple up today. Can you tell I like to make games for myself?

What an awesome to do list system! So simple and basic, yet so effective. Must try this one.

There are so many reasons that I’m digging this list-making method right now:

  1. It’s basic. Sometimes the simplest methods are the best. I love trying out different list-making tools, but those often have way more features that you need for your basic to-do list.
  2. It’s flexible. Since every to-do has its own note card, it’s easy to rearrange and add to your list. I like to have my paper to-do lists neat, so I end up rewriting them if I have many changes. The note card method avoids that problem.
  3. It’s visual. I’m a highly visual person, so seeing that deck of to-dos is very motivating to me. I can see all of the items I need to do, and I can watch the stack get smaller the longer I work.
  4. It’s great for brain dumping. If you have a lot of things swirling around in your mind, it’s awesome to sit down with a stack of blank note cards and write out all your thoughts. No need to categorize them or put them in any order, just get them down on the cards.
  5. It’s easy to sort. Once I have a stack of to-dos, I can sort them by order of importance or group them by project. I often divide my cards up into stacks for each day of my weekend, when I tackle the bulk of my household to-dos.
  6. It’s satisfying. You know how much you love checking things off your paper to-do list? Well, this method is that feeling times 100. When you finish a task, I highly recommend crumpling that note card into a wad and throwing it in the trash. I’ll be honest, this is my favorite part. I’ll sit on the couch with my laptop for a couple of hours and crank out a bunch of tasks. As I complete tasks, I wad up the note cards and toss them on the floor. When I finish working and see the pile of crumpled note cards on the floor, it feels almost as good as conquering the world (okay, that might be exaggerated, but still).
  7. They can be given away. This method would work really well for shared chores around the house. Write out cards for all of the cleaning and errands and lay them out on the table or hang them on the fridge. Then you and your spouse get to take turns choosing tasks that you want to do just like picking teams in gym class. Or, you can make a game of it with your entire family and hang up tasks for the week, with the rule that each person must complete one task every day.
  8. It’s cheap. This is a no-frills list-making method. No fancy apps to download or materials to purchase. All you need is a stack of note cards.

Crush Your Week Promo Bar
What an awesome to do list system! So simple and basic, yet so effective. Must try this one.

Have you used this list-making method before? I hope this post helped you by giving you another list-making tool that you can have in your productivity arsenal. Remember that there are numerous methods for keeping track of your to-do list, so if your current technique isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to try something different.

I use a huge combination of apps, digital tools, paper to-do lists and other methods to ensure I’m being the most productive me I can be. So much to do, so little time! You guys, once I had the idea for this series, I immediately had a list of a few dozen methods I have personally used, so I look forward to sharing more list-making inspiration with you in the future!

What are your favorite list-making methods? Share your tips in the comments–I’d love to hear what works for you. And if you have questions or want to learn more about another list-making method, comment below so I can cover it in a future installment in the “List-Making Methods” series.

Happy list-making!


If you’re looking for more list-making inspiration, check out this blog post where I share my master to-do list method + my daily to-do list printable.

Great way to organize my daily to-do list without going crazy! Love this printable

You May Also Like...

About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

12 ways to automate your to-do list

(that won't cost a dime)

Discover practical, easy-to-implement ideas for automating some of the recurring tasks on your to-do list. Subscribe to have the free guide sent straight to your inbox.

  1. I like to use a big piece of white paper and write down all my goals for the day. Then I cross off each of them once completed :).

    1. I love writing lists on humongous sheets of paper! Isn’t it just the best feeling to be able to cross them off? Thanks for visiting, Alina!

  2. I love this idea for household tasks! I totally agree that using colorful office supplies makes any task more fun 🙂

    1. Haha, crumpling up the notes is my favorite part! Have you tried it out yet, Cherish? Would love to hear how this method is working for you. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}