Inside: the 5 most important lists to have in your journal or planner. Plus tips on using lists in your planner more effectively and efficiently.

Getting organized sounds amazing.

You set every intention to get organized.

“Start with a list”, they say.

You make a list.

  • You realize you forgot to include a few really important items
  • And the list is already SO LONG, you feel overwhelmed at the thought of adding more to it
  • Next thing you know, you lose the list completely

You know this is NOT the result you want.

The good news is you're not alone

We hear this from planners all the time. And we've experienced this frustration ourselves.

That's why we created this post of 5 lists you MUST have in your planner.

These lists:

  • Handle any kind of task you'd ever want to put on a to-do list
  • Are realistic and practical
  • Stop the overwhelm
  • Can be done in journals or planners - these work anywhere!
  • Allow you to lose the stress, not the list!

Before we dig into these 5 essential lists for success, let's discuss some mistakes to avoid.

Why Making Lists Ends in Failure

Maybe you’ve felt relief after making a list. It feels so good to get everything out of your head and on paper!

And that might make you think that the magic occurs in making the list itself.

So why is it so hard to make the list, stay consistent, and actually use it?

You might be making these list-making mistakes:

Mistake #1: Making the list too fancy

When we put anything ahead of making the list, we create a barrier.

Do you wait until you have the perfect paper or perfect handwriting before you make a list?

We give you permission to make the messiest lists ever. If that's what's standing in your way.

You don’t need:

  • special paper
  • your list to be decorated with fancy stickers
  • to write your list by candlelight under the third full moon of the season

Want to make lists fast? We have Inserts for that 😉

Keep list-making simple and practical so you’ll actually do it.

Mistake #2: Creating lists that are not easy to reference again

When you’re ultra busy and your head is swimming with ideas, writing it all down ANYWHERE will provide relief.

Some lists end up:

  • In a notes app on the phone
  • On sticky notes … everywhere
  • On calendars, napkins, oh my!

And then you’ve created a new problem: your list is literally anywhere and everywhere in 32 different parts.

Instead, make your lists in one location in your planner.

Then, use a page finder in your planner to mark the location of your lists so you can reference them fast.

Mistake #3: Making too many lists in too many places

Along the lines of the last mistake is creating too many lists and keeping them in too many places.

This might look like a grocery list on the fridge, a honey-do list on the bathroom door, a wall calendar with to-dos on it, and maybe even a notepad in your car for even more lists.

How can you keep track of everything when everything is everywhere?

The best place for your lists is somewhere:

  • You reference and check often
  • Is consistently the place you make and keep your lists

If this sounds like your planner, bingo! We definitely believe that the best place for your lists is in your planner.

Studies show that lists can help us be more productive because they help us get projects and goals out of our brain so we can focus on the given task we're doing now.

The trick is finding the right list for each purpose.

The 5 Essential Lists You Need in your Journal or Planner

These 5 lists have made a huge difference in how we plan and what we get done around here at Jane’s Agenda:

  • #1: “Waiting On” List
  • #2: A “Promises” List
  • #3: “Worries” List
  • #4: “Home Inventory” List
  • #5: “Primary Task” List

List #1: A "Waiting On" List

A "Waiting On" list is a running list of all the things you're "waiting on".

Writer Chris Bailey suggests the "Waiting On" list in the book The Productivity Project  (which we highly recommend). The “Waiting On” list is a concept first created by David Allen as a productivity tool in his “Getting Things Done” system.

"Waiting On" lists are perfect for:

  • Follow-ups: did the client respond to your last email? Did your child's teacher ever get back to you on that conference you requested? Did that Amazon order actually arrive?
  • Loans and Debts: does Bob still have your lawnmower he borrowed? Did Cathy ever pay back that $20 you loaned her at lunch last month?
  • Tasks in Order: the form you can fill out once Audrey in Accounting gets back to you with the routing number. Or the appointment you're waiting to schedule until your son gets back to you with his game schedule.

Schedule time in your planner to reference your "Waiting On" list regularly to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

List #2: A Promises List


Ever forget that you were going to bring the appetizer to a dinner party, watch your cousin's kid, or meet your sister for lunch? 

Us too.

Promises are the lifeblood of any solid relationship.

Make keeping promises easier by creating a "Promises List".

  • Every time you tell someone you'll do something, write it down
  • Reference your list weekly
  • Add the tasks to your task list and the appointments to your calendar.
  • Cross them off the list when the promise has been fulfilled.

List #3: A Worries List

When everything feels too much, it's a good time to create a "Worries List". 

  1. Start with a fresh page in a journal
  2. List all of your worries and concerns
  3. Create an action plan to address each "worry"

Once you get these ideas and have a plan, you'll feel so much relief and confidence! Plus, you'll free up the mental space you'd been using to worry.

List #4: A Home Inventory List

Do you know what you have in your home?

When a catastrophe happens, we're focused on the safety of our family first. The last thing we're thinking about is what's in the home.

Having a list of the items of value in your home can really help with the insurance claims process.

A good home inventory includes:

  • A detailed list of your possessions
  • Receipts for each purchase
  • Descriptions of each item of value
  • Photos of your home’s contents

Make a copy of this list, including proof of purchase, and keep it in a safe place (like a fire safe) or somewhere outside the home.

Add to it or update it as you bring in new items or get rid of things.

5: A Primary Task List



What about the:

"I'll do it someday" tasks …

… that you really do want to get to …

… just not right now?

These tasks are perfect for the "Primary Task List".

A common mistake is adding all of the "would-like-to-dos" to a Daily or Weekly To Do list, creating one long, comprehensive list.

Getting the tasks out of your head might sound like a good idea …

Long task lists can lead to anxiety, panic, and overwhelm. And aren't effective.

According to Wit & Wire, "No, the problem isn’t task management. It’s task prioritization."

A Primary Task List helps prioritize long-term and future tasks behind the more urgent, now-priority tasks on your Daily or Weekly "To Do" lists.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your daily task list short and sweet and focused on high priority tasks
  • Save other tasks that you just don't want to forget or aren't a priority now on your Primary Task List

Keep your Primary Task List in a place you can reference it and add to it easily as ideas come up.

Jane keeps a Primary Task List in her planner using our lists planner inserts.

Bonus! List #6: The Brain Dump

We recommend a good brain dump regularly to clear out all of the mental clutter.

Follow these steps:

  1. Sit down with your journal, or planner, and write down anything that pops into your head.
  2. Tasks, thoughts, dreams, goals, and that thing you need to tell your friend when you see her. Log it all. 
  3. Use your brain dump to fill out the other lists.

The Brain Dump is a great way to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.

Ready to start making more effective lists for your planner?

Get started with the best list-making Inserts on the planet! Save 10% off your first purchase at Jane’s Agenda with the code: THANKSFORREADING

Click this link to automatically apply the discount to your cart :)

We’re sure you have stories about how lists have saved you … or let you down. Join the conversation happening about list-making in our FREE Group now.

Stack of journals with text on the graphic that reads 5 lists you should have in your planner
March 25, 2019 — Jane Wild
Tags: Planning 101


Vickilyn said:

Love the tips! I will be using these tips right away. I already had some of the list but really digging the waiting list!!

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