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Monday, September 20, 2010

To-do List 101

I've never been very good at making lists.  When I have been able to convince myself to make a list, it was rare that I was able to follow it - until I became a stay at home mom.  I've found, these days, that without a to-do list, absolutely nothing gets done.  I never know where to start.  I'll clean the same room over and over because when you try to clean a house from top to bottom with toddlers running around, by the time you've finished, the entire place is dirty again.  Cooking, cleaning, and making time for yourself all while being a full-time entertainment center for your kids is a tough job.  Sometimes a list can really help slow down the whirlwind.  Here are some list tips from a person who doesn't do lists.

1) Make a list the night before.  Timing is everything.  If you make your list right before you go to bed, you'll feel more prepared for the morning and ready to go when you wake up.

2) Don't limit your list to jobs.  As a parent, everything you do that doesn't involve immediate childcare is a success.  If you use this philosophy when making your list, it won't be as scary to look at in the morning, and you won't feel so overwhelmed.  Taking a shower is an accomplishment in my house, and if it's been a couple days, I will put shower on my list.  I'll put trips on there like walk to the library.   I'll even put stuff I do in my downtime on there.  It gives my list the well-rounded look it deserves.

3) Use your downtime wisely.  There are two reasons I put downtime activities on my list.  The first being so that I actually do them and take some time to relax and enjoy myself.  The second being so that I use that downtime wisely.  If I have three activities I want to do during naptime, it's easier for me to stop playing on the internet and start scrapbooking if both of those items are on the list.  To be honest, much more time would be wasted surfing the unchanging internet pages I visit if I didn't put other fun activities down to be scratched off.

4) Make the list a rolling list.  You are not going to get everything you write down each night done everyday.  If you try, you will only set yourself up for failure.  If you don't get to some items, simply put them on the list for tomorrow.  In this way, you give yourself a bit of choice each day as well.  I try not to let an item stay on my list for more than three days, but, honestly, clean the bathroom can sit on there for up to a week before I can actually bring myself to do it.

5) Don't scratch off an item until you've done the job completely.  One of my faults is my love of the half-job.  I'll start cleaning the kitchen but get distracted and leave before I wash the cabinets and the floor.  I'll do two loads of laundry, but forget the third in the washer.  By not scratching these jobs off before I finish them completely, I remember to finish them the next day.  And I'm more apt to finish them first because psychologically, I'm already halfway there, as opposed to only half-way done.

Maybe lists still aren't for you, but I know as one who has never made lists in her life that when I do follow this technique, I feel better about my day.  I'm more organized, I get more done, and I see the variety in what would otherwise look like a day the same as yesterday the same as the day before.


  1. i am also a big lister. i use a combo of paper lists and electronic ones. i am really fond of google's task list that is included with google calender. i have an app on my android phone, gtasks, which hooks in and syncs with google tasks. i also am very fond of this android app called "our groceries" which i use as both a grocery lister (for all stores. not just supermarket. i even have an ikea list on there and a household wishlist!) which is great because it shares lists between other household member's phones, using android, or iphone, or blackberry. plus there is a website that you can also make lists on! which is great because the last thing i love is having to sit and type my grocery list into something on my phone keyboard.

  2. A friend of mine (who has two kids) made a "to clean the house" list. It has everything that needs to be done to clean each room. She had it laminated, and she marks off the items she's done with a white board marker. The nice part about that list is that her husband can't complain that he doesn't know "what needs to be done" in order to help her. It's on the list. :)

  3. Ooh, hepkitten, I have an Android and I am so downloading those apps, thank you!

  4. I suck at lists so I downloaded an iphone app that helped me tons, that told me what to clean every day, haha. It was working great until I broke my phone.

  5. I once read about, and subsequently used, a wonderful house-cleaning system that involved rotating index cards in a little file box. It was simple, easy to track even those obscure once-a-year deals like cleaning gutters or whatever, and it was pleasingly low-tech (I loves me some smartphone apps, but when it takes longer to type in the task on the teeny-tiny keyboard than to actually DO it, well...). If I can find it again, I will share the details.



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