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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

5 to-do list tips to keep your projects on track

Talk to enough do-it-yourself car folks and you discover two camps of people: Those with a written list of what needs to be done, and those who are woefully unorganized. If there is one key to staying sane-and keeping to any type of budget-while tackling car and motorcycle projects, it is an iron-fisted grasp on what has been done and what needs to be done.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/5-to-do-list-tips-to-keep-your-projects-on-track/
40 REPLIES 40
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

Deciphered: Passenger window regulator
Bobeisenberg
Pit Crew

Excellent suggestions! Thanks!
Ranger68
Pit Crew

Write each to-do on a strip of making tape and put it on the windshield; when completed, tear off and throw away.
Lightning1
Advanced Driver

This is a good idea. It keeps the task in front of your face.
RG440
Instructor

Super Idea ! My first one was Wash Windshield, 2nd Wiper Blades….Thank You !
rbsWELDER
Pit Crew

GREAT Article!!!
topside
Advanced Driver

I learned when working in racecar shops to tape 8.5x11 lined sheets of paper - yellow seemed to carry more authority - to the subject car's windshield or side glass. Continually adding things as needed, crossing off completed tasks, so we all knew what was done and ready for inspection. After all, lives are potentially involved, as well as balling up the car, and/or potential humiliation for the worker & shop. A separate list for Items To Buy, or to fabricate. All for the car's file. I do the same thing for my own cars to this day.
Jackrambler
Pit Crew

This may not work for everybody, but when I feel I'm falling behind, I create a to don't list...a series of things I never will even attempt. Then, I simply don't do them. My self-satisfaction level increases every time, and my projects are none the worse.
OldBird
Intermediate Driver

Oh, as an incorrigible list maker I just love this!
DrOverboost
Intermediate Driver

On weekdays I occasionally have time to do a few minutes or an hour of work. Identify short term versus longer term projects. On my white board I mark short or long or “guesstimate” time to complete. Tackle short ones when you know you don't have all day. Try to make the day’s project short enough so you can complete it that day. Even if it is just getting one of the bolts in one shock absorber before you go in for dinner. You’ll get better at estimating the more you do it. The satisfaction of accomplishment improves your interest in continuing the project.
69RoadRunner
Pit Crew

This is great HOWEVER, as anyone who has gotten their knuckles busted twisting wrenches, when you start a task, you can quickly fall into the " might as well" situation. You know, you're doing the rear brakes and you might as well pull the rear axles for inspection while you're at it otherwise you'll have to do that later and pull your new brake job apart. I hate it when that happens and nobody likes that!
OldBird
Intermediate Driver

I believe "mission creep" is the term. BTDT...
F360Spider
Detailer

I must be weird since I never write anything down until I do it. I just keep track of it in my head and that works for me. I do document everything done and write it up as a pictorial essay for future reference though.

Personally, the most important thing anyone can do to get a project completed is this:

Work on your project every day. It doesn't matter how much you get done, just put in some effort every single day and your project will eventually be finished.

hyperv6
Racer

#1 don’t bite off more car than you can handle skill or financial wise.

#2 don’t start more than one project at a time.

#3 marry a wife that understands.

#4 work steady but don’t over do it.

#5 set goals to each step.

#6 don’t start with a total basket case unless it is very rare and valuable.

#6 make friends with people who know the car and or know where the parts can be found.

#7 work smart.
DrOverboost
Intermediate Driver

If I could “like” this 6 more times, I would!!!
Punk
Advanced Driver

After two divorces, during which I have had my Jag for the whole time, I have found that for #3 it should say, marry your classic car and you will have more peace! But that's just my experience...
Lightning1
Advanced Driver

It's a journey of a thousand steps, but you gotta take step #1!
jskylark70
New Driver

30 years ago I used to set up new stores for Pep Boys and we used construction "punch lists", and I used several redoing a 1966 Skylark. You can have a master project list of major jobs and then sub-lists breaking down and listing things to do to complete those major jobs and listing materials and items needed for those jobs and also a checkoff system for ordering and receiving those parts and materials. Jobs should be arranged in an order where you are not doing "double work" and touching stuff twice if at all possible. After you have worked on a list and and crossed some major items step back and create a new clean list adding that stuff that just came up. Since I was from up North I also arranged major jobs according to the weather, my Bondo jobs had to be done by November because Bondo doesn't like the cold, now that I am in FL I am waiting till November to do my Bondo on my 1970 Skylark because it doesn't like the HOT rainy summer season here. Hope this can help someone.
JohnnyD
Intermediate Driver

As I grew older i learned to buy less of a project car ... that comes with a shorter to do list. Life is busy and short and ya can't spend all your time working in the "man cave garage"... in my opinion. Big project cars are for younger men and women with time money and patience.
Just an old guy's experience after 50 years of "car-toys".
Timbo
Intermediate Driver

As Nike used to say: "Just do it!"
jaysalserVW
Advanced Driver

You have an interesting by-line name. I used to live in Timbo, Vaupes, Colombia, S. America.
It is Geral for Barbasco.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

Lists are for sissies... I tend to live by the hard and fast rule of trying to remember everything that needs to be done.
janedon
Advanced Driver

Trying to Remember--I'm glad you don't build Skyscrapers-
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I keep two. One is sort of a "bucket list" and the other is mis-named "today." There's a lot of stuff that stays on the "today" list unfortunately too long, but when that list gets a bit short, I move something over from the bucket list. Your article makes it obvious that I definitely need to do a better job of keeping the shopping list separate from the task list.
Unfortunately, I don't have the wall space for a white board, but that's a neat idea.
Inline8OD
Technician

Turning off computer and getting to work helps, too.
Chevymanj
Pit Crew

Hang a sign over your garage entry door or garage door saying “MAKE IT HAPPEN!!” Then do it. Whether it’s by you or someone else. Yes, #3 is very important.
Gene_M
Detailer

You guys at Hagerty are truly magicians - showing a RED sharpie that writes BLACK!!! How'd you do it?
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Stuck the wrong cap back on the pen. Simple!
janedon
Advanced Driver

mabe add--putting the right cap on the correct Sharpie -
Ajakeski
Detailer

Keep the shop fridge full of beer and burgers for the grill. Every part under the sun is on indefinite back order due to political disarray. Might as well have a drink and something to eat while you wait.
TG
Technician

These are pretty good suggestions for a for-profit operation with a lot of projects with a fairly well defined scope

For my personal projects, I have found that making lists - at least long, complete ones, can be spirit-killing. I try to keep the focus of my projects out far enough that I have parts for Step 2 by the time Step 1 is finished, but not out so far that the task seems overwhelming

The big thing about keeping my projects going is forcing myself to go to the garage and spend some time with the car even if I don't really feel like doing any significant work that day. Sometimes just straightening up and tinkering around is enough to get the juices flowing to keep things on track
janedon
Advanced Driver

Yup-- The hardest part is "Getting Started"
J4Customs
Pit Crew

If you have multiple cars/projects, I have found keeping an Excel spreadsheet of everything is so helpful. The "to do" is in a column and the "completed" in another column with the date.
The more detail on your old projects the better. Keep one file with multiple tabs.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I found spreadsheets to be particularly helpful for parts shopping (most of my parts came from overseas). I had a column for each supplier, rows for each part, and prices. In many cases, the most important thing was to find the supplier who had most or all of the stuff I needed to order (minimizing shipping costs).

That particular project is on the road now, but the spreadsheet continues to serve as a record of what I bought and where.

Rbfara
Pit Crew

Coming from the carpentry trade, a punch list is a daily way of life on a big project. Never having done a car resto before, The Lists were the only way to clear headidly navigate through a (years!) long project without panicking: Head Down, Move Forward, Finish the one task at hand before moving on, do NOT get distracted.

Often one item can have it’s own todo list, like, “investigate the front end shimmy....” I have a binder of lists from the past 3 years of my current project. I find it’s helpful to date them like spring 2021, etc and to prioritize tasks. I look back on those lists and laugh to think about what I learned, what I screwed up and had to redo several times before I finally got it right and what I did that I never thought was possible.

It reminds me of two things I read in a car forum somewhere:
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Now It’s written on my tool box.
The second tip was to carefully photograph and bag everything as if you won’t get back to assembly for 10 years. Thank goodness for digital cameras and creating project files. Each car gets a rebuild book (a project in itself) So the new owner can see and verify all the work done, before and after.

The crossing off of the completed item with the biggest thickest sharpie possible is important. I’ve even burned them. (The convertible top and headliner install list?!!!)
And beers shared in a greasy garage with the friend that showed up on short notice when you needed them (often at night) is just about the best beverage in the world. Needless to say it helps clear your head as you put your tools away put a clean bandaid on your knuckles and look forward to the next item on the list.
billysmurf
New Driver

Thanks for breaking down the process and explaining it clearly. Being a owner of <a href=http:// https://www.paintforcars.com/> automotive paint shop</a> we have always have felt to pressure in work, not long ago we came up with plan to work effectively.
MrBill-1943
Detailer

For those of us a little more computer savvy and lacking an in closed space to post and list I did an Excel Spread sheet starting with the overall project needs from inside to outside. I then started adding Tabs by vendor, contact, address, phone, web site etc. doing what work and then supplier of parts, prices, marking when needed, ordered, where to ship, received and receipt logged. It worked great for me as I also noted Photos taken, and binder set up that travels with me when I go to shows as often guys will ask me...where did you get it, how much did it cost, what is there contact information etc. Took 2 years but loved every moment of the Resto.
Waterboy1KHY80
Detailer

Boy does THIS hit home. I am in the middle of an LS swap / drive-line upgrades, and one item you can add to your list is, "things to accomplish while you wait for parts" a proverbial sub list of to do's to keep things on track.
Maestro1
Technician

Thank you Kyle, I have a large white board in the garage and each car has its place on it.
Things in immediate need are in red. Everything else is in blue, just colors I bought. Example: The 41 year old Japanese truck, the member of the family, needs an oil change NOW. It happens this week. My nephews Ford Ranger needs a wheel balance, topping up of the Power Steering Unit and properly inflated tires. In the next 10 days. And so on. But
jaysalserVW
Advanced Driver

You did it again, Kyle! Practical suggestions for keeping things going and not falling into the abyss!