How Do You Stick To Your “To-Do List”?

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Aubrey Plaza

“Become movie star.” Hmmm … Half-check on that goal.

Last week, The To Do List hit theaters. In the film, a very type-A young woman (Aubrey Plaza) writes down a list of things she wants to do before college so she can gain, well, um, experience.

This blog doesn’t cover the specific tasks she wants to accomplish (they’re beyond even our “college and beyond” mantra); however, the way she keeps herself accountable— namely, putting it on paper—definitely seems on point for a burning question. So, here it is: How do you stick to goals that you make for yourself (financial or otherwise)?

Check out what our bloggers had to say.


Mike Restiano

I’m kind of obsessive about setting goals. I just imagine myself achieving something, be that a degree, an amount of money, job, scholarship, or whatever else I can come up with, as vividly as I possibly can—sometimes so much so to the point of narration (“The Ph.D. graduate smiled shyly at his new degree…”). By chasing a fantasy around in my daydreams enough times, I never forget the things I have to do to transform it into a reality.

Hoping this isn’t a sign of insanity.

Bridget Casey

I set goals, but I also find habits are more powerful and ultimately have a bigger impact, so I try to develop those instead. It’s good to set a goal to save $2,000 for a vacation or school, but developing the habit of transferring $250 from every payday to your savings account will be more effective. Dreams are good, but action is better!

Sasha Laferte

I’m the personal-planner queen. Everything down to what day I need to do my laundry is cataloged by day and in order of importance in my planner. It relaxes me. Rather than constantly running all the things I need to get done through my head and fearing I’ve forgotten something, I only need to worry about the one or two small tasks on the page. If I break up the bigger goals into smaller tasks I can do each day, they’re much less intimidating!

Aaron Weber

My wife and I have a spreadsheet on Google Docs of things we want, how soon we want them, and how much we think they’ll cost. It includes things as big as a new car (high cost, but low priority) and as small as new cushions for the couch (low cost, but high priority given the state of the current cushions).

Brigit Bauma

Whenever I set a goal or have something to do for the week at college, I write it down on a whiteboard attached to my dresser. So, every morning when I get changed, my to-do list can pretty much slaps me in the face saying, “Hey, you got stuff to do! Get on it!” It’s really satisfying when I get to erase the marker, leaving a clean white slate.

Diane Melville

To me, goals are sort of like responsibilities—the more of them you have, the less effective you are across the board. I’ve found that by creating one or two very specific goals (with a defined time frame), I’m much more focused and able to achieve them. I also like to set goals that I actually care about—that way I’m much more motivated to keep at it.

Ryan Lane

I have one main goal: record my finances on the first of each month to see how I’m doing. I’ve done this for about 4 years … until this past July when I was traveling on the first (and the numbers have to be from that date—you can’t have a compulsion without little quirks, right?). It nagged at me until yesterday (August 1), when I was able to get back on schedule. Ah, the sweet release of “normalcy.”

Anna Marden

For short-term goals, I make to-do lists on a daily basis with good old fashioned pen and paper. I also have a list of longer-term goals, like New Year’s Resolution-type ideas that I have on a Post-It tacked to my cubicle wall at work. In addition, I write in a positivity/motivation journal about what makes me happy, what inspires me, what I want to achieve, etc. I just started this a little over a month ago, and I feel like it has changed my life. Whenever I’m stressed or feeling negative, I grab my journal and read some of what I’ve already written or start writing more about only positive things—it’s amazing. It changes my whole mindset.

Carmen Guzmán

It depends on what it is I need to remember. For example: a doctor’s appointment will go on the phone calendar. My work or studies go on my day-to-day moleskin agenda. My immediate job tasks go on a Post-It, and if I’m feeling philosophical and the goals are about life, I post them on my blog. I only ask my family and friends to remind me of things that have to do with them, so a text reminding me of a birthday is always nice. But the whole reason behind this “jotting down of goals” is that once it’s on paper/screen, I have a different perspective on it. I actually “see” it and it becomes a real thing.

All right, readers, now it’s your turn? Share the ways you set goals in the comments!

(Photo: Wikimedia)

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  1. allison fine August 2, 2013 / 12:59 pm

    I love the idea of setting goals, even seemingly “small ones, like “smile at everyone today,” or take the trash out, or meditate twice, or don’t eat sugar, etc. But at my stage in life (mid-60′s) other than writing goals for myself (I am a writer) and reading goals (I am in two book clubs) I have come to realize that so much of my goal setting was distraction from living my life NOW, from moment to moment, allowing the possibility of the unknown, the “chaos” to ensue and rolling with the waves of emotion and experience that life really is. So many of the so-called goals I set for myself never materialized, for whatever reasons, and so many things that I have experienced in the last 40 years I could never have predicted or even thought I wanted! It’s the great adventure of life. I have given up “goal setting” in the larger sense. I move with life moment to moment. I do have some “intentions” and as I mentioned in the beginning they seem small. However integrity in small things produces integrity in big things, and so it goes.

    • Ryan Lane August 2, 2013 / 2:52 pm

      Wise words, Allison. Appreciate you sharing!

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