To List or Not to List
I’m always evaluating and rethinking the way I organize my time. Sometimes I’m very literal with my Drops of Awesome thinking and I just keep a done list. Other times I plan out every minute of every day. Lately, my biggest organizational goal is to plan my tasks to fit the hours I have, rather than hoping to magically add more hours to my day. Each day I create a Shrink-to-Fit To-Do List.
It’s part of a major life overhaul I’m engineering to simplify my life and feel more joy. I call it my Stay-at-Home Mom’s Midlife Reflection. It’s a bit like a midlife crisis… but shinier. Through this process, I’ve found that it’s hard to find joy in every moment if you’re multi-tasking in a desperate attempt to cram way too many tasks into your life.
Don’t Try to “Make it Fit”
If you want to look and feel good in your clothes, don’t buy clothes in the size you wish you were. Buy clothes that fit. The same goes for your to-do list. You can’t create a to-do list of all the things you wish to accomplish and then beat yourself up when you fall short. You need to create a list that’s realistic for what you can do with the time you have.
How much time can you realistically give to house cleaning this Tuesday? Well, that depends. What else do you have going on? Maybe you’re volunteering for a field trip that day so the best you can do is wipe down the counters after dinner. If your to-do list says “deep-clean kitchen,” but you don’t have time to do it, you may feel like a failure. You may feel this way, despite spending a great day with your kids.
What about fitting in a solid workout on Wednesday? Maybe you have an early morning work meeting and you’re taking your son to a track meet after school. So, you do calf raises on the sidelines and call it good.
Learning to look your day in terms of actual availability before determining What Must Be Done helps you feel so much more successful about what you accomplish. And remember that no human person can or should fill every spare minute of her day with 100% productivity. Plan a buffer of downtime into your day. If you have 2 hours in your day that aren’t absolutely scheduled with work and activities and appointments, make a small to-do list for that time that allows you to take a few minutes to breathe and rest and have a conversation with someone you love.
It’s Okay if You Can’t Do Everything
This same thinking works for planning a fulfilling vacation, so keep it in mind as you prepare for summer. I’m currently planning an anniversary trip to Europe for me and my husband. I find myself reading every guidebook and making lists of what we could do in each city. The lists our huge but the amount of time we have is not.
I find myself asking questions like, “Is it a horrible trip if I can’t fit in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or the Tate in London?” Of course not. But, there’s just so much AWESOME to see and do! What will truly ruin the trip is if I try to see and do all of it, rather than really focusing on enjoying the experience and activities we can fit in.
So, I pull out my pen. I cross things off. And I mourn a little because I want to do all the things and eat all the foods. But, when I do it, everything becomes more manageable. And if I can manage to be present and enjoy our time together, it will be a success.
That’s what I do every day with my to-do list. Cross things off. Mourn a little because I want to volunteer all the places and try all the activities. And then rejoice when things get more manageable and I can be more present and joyful, doing less… better.
Change How You Measure Success
The last tip I’d give you is to measure success by how much time and effort you put in, not by whether you complete a task.
If I say, “I’m going to spend half an hour writing,” I have the power to control whether I meet that goal or not. However, if I say, “I’m going to complete a blog post in the half hour I have between ballet and dinner time,” I may be disappointed. Focus on your actions and what you can control and consider it a success when you put in a solid effort.
What can you do today to shrink your to-do list to fit your life?
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