NYC Professional Organizer Gives Client Advice for Managing Her To-Do List

Stephanie Shalofsky
November 22, 2011 — 2,093 views  
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Professional Organizers in NYC often suggest a to-do list as a tried and true time management tool to prioritize tasks and help ensure that important events and activities don't fall through the cracks in our busy lives.  But sometimes, finding  workable organizing solutions for issues related to organizing and time management in NYC home offices can be a challenge.

Stephanie Shalofsky, professional home organizer in NYC who is also a home office organizer and founder The Organizing Zone, shares this advice as a first step, "A to-do list is a great tool for keeping track of all the tasks or projects that need to be addressed.  However, be sure that you only have ONE list otherwise you will spend more time managing the lists and less time actually doing the work."  One list allows you to see all of your important tasks – work, home, school, volunteer, social – in one place and establish priorities and deadlines with the full picture in front of you.

One of Stephanie's NYC clients, Cathy, struggled with managing her long list of tasks as she juggled her own business, taking classes toward an advanced degree and keeping her family of six on schedule and where they needed to be. 

"Before working with a home office organizer," explains Stephanie, "Cathy would make note of phone calls, errands, appointments and other tasks on the pages of her calendar. As you can imagine, there was lot of information written all over each calendar page, making it difficult to find what she needed quickly, much less establish priorities for her day." If she was away from her calendar, Cathy would make notes on scraps of paper, sticky notes, napkins – whatever was handy – which might or might not make their way on to the calendar, despite their level of importance.

Working with Stephanie through numerous techniques for NYC home office organizing and time management techniques, they established a system that Cathy was able to maintain. There are many organizing solutions for managing a to-do list, including software, on-line and mobile applications and sophisticated project management tools. Because Cathy was comfortable utilizing a physical calendar, they determined that a paper-based to-list would work best. Stephanie shares, "Instead of noting all of the various tasks that needed to be done on her calendar, Cathy now records them on paper stapled inside the front cover of her calendar. We devised a system for categorizing the tasks by type and Cathy records and numbers one task per line, using only the designated columns. With this list in hand, she can review her daily schedule to assess the amount of available time and then select and prioritize those tasks that need to be addressed, and schedule forward those that can be dealt with later."  Stephanie points out that it's important to be realistic about what you accomplish in a given time period. "You're much more likely to stick with a system if your to-do list is achievable," she says.

Cathy, working hard to break old habits and establish new ones, has been working with the new organizing and time management system in her NYC home office for several months now.  Though she still sometimes assembles a stack of notes, she quickly works to assimilate those tasks into her to-do list. "Most importantly," says Stephanie, "Cathy spends time each day updating the list and setting her priorities for the day, something that was difficult before because she had to sort through a jumbled pile of notes and scribbled-upon calendar pages." 

If your system for managing your to-do list needs some tweaking, Stephanie shares these tips:

1. Determine the type of system that you're most comfortable with and that you'll use on a daily basis. If pen and paper is your typical method of taking notes and maintaining your calendar, this might be your best fit. If you rely on your smart phone as a key tool in organizing your home and office, consider an app that will help keep you on track each day.

2. Establish categories for your tasks – business, personal, social, etc.

3. Break down tasks into individual actions. Rather than "finish proposal," list the individual steps to accomplish the task, such as discuss project with staff, determine budget and get logos from marketing department.

4. Be patient, yet flexible. Adapting to a new system takes time. Commit to maintain your to-do list for a few weeks to determine if it's working for you. Be willing to adapt and modify as needed to make your list work for you.


Stephanie Shalofsky

The Organizing Zone

Stephanie Shalofsky is the founder of The Organizing Zone ( and a Professional Organizer located in New York City. She specializes in office organizing and works with small companies and individuals with home offices. Stephanie creates customized solutions that her clients can sustain so that they will be better able to manage their paper and computer information, time and space. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]