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Section 17
Making Time for Alzheimer's & Low-Functioning...
by Using a To-Do List - Part 1
How to "Operate" your To-Do List

Table of Contents

Lists, lists, everywhere lists. Many people make so many lists that they need a list to keep track of their lists!  Sound like you?  Or not?  Are you a list making Activity Director?  Does this sound familiar?  Too many lists are more apt to overwhelm than organize you. Do you agree with this statement?

I am going to suggest a simple system I use all the time that involves two lists—my To-Do List and my Daily Task List.  Sounds kind of too simple and oh… too… too… obvious!  But there are some subtleties to this two-list system that you may be overlooking.  If you have the self discipline to stick to some basics regarding using this two-list system, you cannot help but be better organized. And better organization in your Activity Department leads to… What?  Right! Making extra time for things like the Culture Change CNA Inservices suggested in the first four Volumes of this Series!

The Comprehensive To-Do List:  I feel, for me, this is the most powerful organiza­tional tool that exists. It’s a comprehensive list of everything you have to do. Sounds simple!  However, the key is to keep it in one single convenient location, either in a notebook, in a hand-held organizer, or on a Word or an Excel program, etc.  I like to keep mine in easy reach.  So I prefer a hard copy in an old-fashioned spiral notebook.  The spiral binding of the notebook makes it easy to find on my desk.  Also if I think of an idea, I want to write it down right away and don't like to have to wait for my computer to boot up a program.

Here's how it works.  Simply enter a “to do” into your To-Do List as soon as you think of it, whether it’s a report for your Administrator or Corporate Consultant (and date due), a re­minder to buy supplies, or a note to get those volunteer flyers out to the church group.

The Comprehensive To-Do List is a compiling of all your tasks, whether you have 10 or 110—a kind of warehouse from which you will move a certain number of manageable tasks each day onto your Daily Task List.

The Daily Task List:  This is your daily guide to action. If you use a "Teacher's Planner" book, this can serve as a great location for your Daily Task List, as well as a calendar, due to the large spaces provided for writing each day.  Your Daily Task List is a sepa­rate list, taken from your To-Do List and other sources, which guides your actions for the day. Make sense?  The Daily Task List might consist of no more than ten tasks, if possible, in order to avoid setting unrealistic goals for the day and becoming frozen into inactivity.

How to “operate” your comprehensive To-Do List
   Record things that need to be done as they come up! However, don’t try to “organize” them or set priorities at this point.  This is just a comprehensive or complete list in chronological order as these things occur to you.
•   Break big tasks down:  After you have listed a task on your Comprehensive To-Do List, if needed, break big tasks down into manageable “parcels” to avoid feeling overwhelmed. If, for example, you have your first CNA Culture Change Inservice scheduled , break the Inservice down into several phases, such as (1) write and edit the outline; (2) get input from Activity Staff and Consultant; (3) revise the outline; (4) produce the first draft; (5) schedule a meeting with your DON to discuss the content and select a date and times...  and so on….   So you might start a separate page in your note book for  your first Culture Change CNA Inservice.  if you have listed a "To-Do" that is a huge project or event and needs to be broken down into it's component or sub-parts.

•   Transfer to a Calendar.  Each day, check your To-Do List for tasks you want to sched­ule at a later time. Enter those tasks onto your calendar on the appropriate day—next week, or three weeks from now.   They become part of your Daily Task List at this point. Then cross them off of your To-Do List once they have been scheduled onto your calendar.  If you have a computer date book program, this process may be automatic.  I suggested the use of a Teacher's Planner book above, which can be purchased at a Teachers' Supply House.  Also, Staples office supplies carries in their "Calendar Department" calendars that are three-hole punched for easy insertion into a three ring folder.  They are inexpensive and come in various combinations of by-the-month, by-the-week, etc.  I find using this three ring folder makes my calendar always… well usually… easy to find.  J

•   Delegate. Some things on your list just might not be your job. Look through the items on your To-Do List and see which tasks can be delegated. Make a note when you will talk to a staff member or volunteer about the delegated item. Cross the task off your To-Do List once it has been delegated. You will of course need to keep track of who’s doing what and when it’s done.  To keep track of delegated items, enter the per­son’s name and the date assigned onto your To-Do List.  Sound good?

•   ASAP. At the end of each work day, transfer a few items onto tomorrow’s Daily Task List, which may be located on your calendar as suggested above, and cross them off your To-Do List. A few of these items should be time-pegged—particularly those things you need to get to ASAP, as soon as possible. Others, of course, need not be.

Some practical tips for To-Do List maintenance
•   Some Activity Directors are comfortable lumping resident tasks and department head tasks together. Others find it easier to distinguish between the two, either by using two different-colored note­books or by sticking a divider tab in their notebook to separate them.  Ask yourself if you need to differentiate between visiting Millie on A wing to initiate Caps-in-a-Bowl (described in our Alzheimer's and Low Functioning Series) and updating five progress notes.

•   If you have only one or two incomplete tasks left on a page, rewrite them on a new page, crossing off the original entries, to avoid To-Do List clutter.

•   As you complete a page, you might cut the corner so you can turn easily to the most up-to-date page of your To-Do List notebook.

Get started now by beginning your To-Do List started below.  List anything that you need to do.  Place a number in front of it.  1. Break big tasks down;  2. Transfer to a Calendar;  3. Delegate;  4.  ASAP;  5. Ongoing proj­ects


To Do List


The first thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The second thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The third thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The fourth thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The fifth thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The sixth thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…


The seventh thing that comes to my mind that I need to do is…

If you are not feeling highly motivated to implement any of the preceding ideas, think again!.  The Implementation of Culture Change requires cooperation from other departments.  You are requesting schedule changes, transporting, and doing activities.  In order to make these requests and provide training for other staff, the more professional and organized you present yourself, the more likely the other department heads, therapists, CNAs, etc. are to treat you with respect and take your Culture Change requests seriously.  Agree?  So I suggest you strongly consider rereading the preceding section more than once.  Sift through it to find the ideas you need to implement.

Forward to Section 18
Back to Section 16

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