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5 Bujo Spreads for Managing an Overwhelming To-do List

by Ambassador Team 06 Apr 2024 0 Comments

Do you often feel overwhelmed by the to-do list?  Maybe you don’t know where to start with your tasks or end up procrastinating by completing less essential ones instead.

journal open on page full of to-do lists

Hello, it’s Alex (@TheJournalCorner) from the Archer and Olive ambassador team.  Today we are going to look at 5 ways to use your journal to manage the to-do list.  This blog post will take you through examples that may help if you are overwhelmed by daily or longer term tasks.  We will look at ways to prioritise your lists and how to break them down into manageable chunks.  These ideas can be applied in any situation, whether you are busy with work deadlines, studying or juggling family life.

Remember you can also find a video of these steps at the end of this page if you prefer to watch the creation of these spreads.  There you will also find a printable I have created to help save time including these pages in your own journal.

Supplies needed

Closed green storybook journals with accessories

If you use pen and paper to manage your to-do list, whether that’s in a bullet journal or planner, then along with a writing pen you have all the supplies needed for these ideas.  You can see the Archer & Olive journals currently available here.  

I do find a visually appealing task list more inviting so in addition to a journal, some of the ideas I am sharing today could also use pens such as the brush calliographs. It’s always nice to add some simple decoration too and Archer and Olive have some lovely themed washi and stickers.  You may find a pencil and ruler or the planner stencil helpful too.

Accessories including pens, stencils, stickers and washi tape

If you are looking to purchase anything from Archer & Olive, please use ‘Alex10’ to save 10%. This is an affiliate code, so it allows you to support creators like me too.

1. ‘It Can Wait’ journal page

Open journal with title It Can Wait and lists beneath

I first created this page last summer when I felt overwhelmed at the end of the school year.  There were so many things I hadn’t managed to achieve and I knew most would have to be put on hold until autumn when the children were back to school.  

It would work well to manage your tasks ahead of a holiday, work trip, studying for exams  - anything you know will make you short of time.

First create a title ‘It Can Wait’ using the broad end of a calliograph pen.  

Open journal with title It Can Wait

Next, list all the things that you have in mind to do but can delay until you have more free time.  You could categorise these by type (work/home/garden) to help keep it more organised.

It can wait title on page with subheadings below (work, house) plus washi and pen

This page helped to ensure I didn’t forget about smaller, non essential tasks I could come back to later on.  More importantly, it removed these tasks from my current list so I could prioritise and focus on those I didn’t feel could wait until autumn.

Finally, I added washi tape as decoration at the bottom of the page.

Completed It Can Wait page with subheadings and washi tape

2. Must - Should - Want

Another way I have managed an overwhelming to-do list is by breaking it down into sections.  For each section I use a calliograph brush pen for the header and often washi tape to divide the page too.

Open journal with headings must, should, could and washi tape

There are many different prioritisation techniques, this one focuses on a categorising tasks into 3 groups - must, should and wants.

Must - These are the critical tasks that must be completed promptly and are usually of high-importance.  I sometimes see these as the ‘Eat the Frog’ tasks - ones to get out the way first, then everything else seems easier!

Should - Tasks that are significant but may not have an immediate deadline.  They still require attention though!

Want - Thing you want to do but that are not urgent.  They may be enjoyable and I often keep them as a ‘reward’ when I have achieved my critical tasks.

Completed must/could/should page with pen and stencil

Using this approach helps me to focus on essential tasks but also find balance in daily or weekly activities.  Its so important to consider things you want to do that lift your mood or are a form of self-care. 


3. Eisenhower Matrix

You may have come across this method before but have you actually created one in your own journal?  

It’s quite simple to draw and helps you organise your to-do list based on urgency and importance.  First you need to divide your page into 4 quadrants with the headings important, not important, urgent and not urgent. Using the planner stencil as a ruler helped with this.

open page divided into 4 with titles urgent, not urgent, important, not important

Adding washi tape and stickers from Archer and Olive can add a decorative touch too.

Open journal page with empty matrix and added floral stickers

You can then divide your to-do list up and add to the area that best suits it:

  • Do First/urgent and important.  Tasks that have clear deadlines.
  • Schedule/important but not urgent.
  • Delegate/urgent but not important. Maybe you do not have to personally do them.
  • Don’t do/delete - neither urgent or important.  

Page with tasks added into Eisenhower matrix

4. Monthly Dashboard Page

Open journal with dashboard title stamped on Kraft paper

If I am honest, most months I feel overwhelmed by the tasks I need to achieve and I often include a dashboard page in my bullet journal to help manage them.  This is a page at the start of my month that I use to break down the to-do list by type.  I can collate anything left outstanding from the previous month and leave space to think ahead to the next.

Open journal with floral theme dashboard lists after the pen

Sometimes alongside this journal spread I include a ‘brain dump’ page for additional space to jot down things as I think of them.  I feel this type of page is perfect to help when your mind feels full and it’s more important to just write things down rather than categorise at this stage.

Open journal on a decorative Brain Dump Page

5. A Creative Escape

Closed wellness planner with 2 pens

Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start it may be best just to step back and spend some time being creative.  This may feel counter productive but it can help reset your mind to then better approach your tasks with clearer thinking.

I love to spend time colouring in a page like the ones in the Archer & Olive wellness planner.  Sometimes just some mindful colouring, lettering or doodling can help you unwind just enough to feel less overwhelmed and better ready to make a start on your tasks.  The calliograph brush pens are ideal for this too with their narrow and wider tip.

Open planner with colouring page part completed and 2 pens

Printable and Video

I hope you have found this article useful in helping you with ideas to better cope with a long to-do list.

Please take a look at the printable below to save you time setting up these pages in your own journal.

Thumbnail with examples of printable

Don’t forget to watch the video to see more on this process too.


Open journal with to-do list

I hope you have found these ideas useful and they help if you are feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list.

For more journal inspiration come and say hello @thejournalcorner. We always love to see your creations, so please tag @archerandolive or use #aoshare on Instagram.

The Archer & Olive blog has a lot of articles to help inspire your journaling while keeping productive.  Take a look here for Bullet Journal page ideas and learn about time blocking to manage tasks here.  There are also some helpful ideas on using colour coding for monthly logs to help productivity.

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