The To-Do List…

…or any list of stuff. These lists can completely clutter your life. Are they really useful? Can they help you with your goals, your schedule, your organization?

Well, to an extent I think they can. I also think they can be pointless.

They're pointless when they're not focused on your goals. And they're pointless when they're not helping you achieve your goals and manage your household.

When you need a to-do list

There are times when lists are going to help you. You probably need a daily to-do list for household management. I don't mean things like “cook breakfast” – these things should be on your schedule so you get used to them. Form “habits” so to speak. But sometimes something like this may need to be on your to-do list for a few days. I need to put “drink my pregnancy tea” on my list because it hasn't become a habit yet. By next week I probably won't need the reminder. Another thing is the supper dishes. My hubby was in charge of those and I am taking over for him. But it's not habit so I need it on my list right now.

However routine tasks should become just that – part of your routine. Follow the schedule that you've developed and “tweaked” for your family to take care of those things (take a look at the entry on scheduling for a refresher.)

You daily to-do list is a place for things like “get the oil changed in the van” “call for insurance quotes” “go buy eggs on sale at YumYum Grocery” – tasks that you need to accomplish to manage your household, but don't occur every day.

Planning and following through

I've found it helpful to take one evening on the weekend and think of the things I'll need to do in the coming week. Then I plan out when during the week is the best time for them. I have a time each day I handle phone calls and things and that's when I'll insert “call plumber to schedule work on bathtub” into my schedule. Of course some things are urgent and you need to put them in right away. But do try and consider how “urgent” something actually is.

My preferred night to do this is Saturday. I run errands on Saturday and we generally do our family running around on Saturday. So I like to use Saturday night and then devote Sunday to resting, relaxing, enjoying the family, and telling stories to the kiddos. You may find Sunday night works better for you to focus you for the coming week. I just like having at least one day somewhat “off the job” 😉

I also have a daily to-do list for my website related tasks. I have some things that are routine, like weekly site information checks. But other things I need to put on the list. If you work from home an organized to-do list will help you.

Try to actually *do* what is on your list. If you consistently find there are things not done you either A. Need to plan less on a given day. Or B. figure out why you're not following through. For me the things I haven't done almost always involve phone calls because I don't like making them. It's something to work on. If you notice similar weaknesses you can start creating targeted goals to help you remove those weaknesses. (note to self: set some goals about confidence in making phone calls :p)

Other helpful lists

Now for other lists. These are actually my favorite kind of lists. They really help me. I have “big” to-do lists which often get translated into goals. These are things like my appropriately named “Baby List.” This list is full of things I want to get done/get made/get purchased before our new baby is born (I know, you figured that out already :p)

It's helpful for me to have this list because I can put something on the list and get it out of my head. I don't keep thinking “I need to read this book before the baby comes” randomly throughout the day. Have you noticed that continuing to think about needing to do something but not being able to take action on it will drive you crazy? Getting it onto a list can free you to let go of the thought – and to constructively plan when you'll be able to act on it. You can look over these lists on a weekly basis when you do the rest of your planning.

I like to take lists of these kinds and either form concrete goals out of them or translate items onto my to-do lists. One of my “baby list” items is, of course, having the house organized. I formed a concrete goal out of this list item. Another of my goals to read a certain book to help myself prepare for labor. I've put this on my “to-do list” for next week (in general I list the 1-2 books I'd like to get through that week on my to-do list).

Lists for supply gathering/action planning

There are other times lists are helpful. If you are taking a trip or moving you need to make lists. List out everything you'll need for your trip. If you're moving go check a book out from the library – they're full of lists you'll need for moving and they'll really help. Start all these types of lists well in advance.

Then as the “listed event” gets closer, start to gather your supplies and things. Strategically plan how to attack some things on the list (like if you're going to cook travel food for your trip. You need to plan a day to do this!).

I made a pretty flawless 2000 mile round-trip last summer alone with three children. And it went incredibly well. I think the biggest thing helping me was my getting-ready list and how I translated that into practical goals and concrete steps to get ready.

Cooking can fall into this type of list too, especially if you're planning a holiday spread or cooking for a birthday party or your freezer. Plan out your recipes and your ingredients. Then use your lists to make a plan of action for working through your big cooking project.

Organizing your lists

Right now I really strongly favor a paper planner for managing my daily to-do lists for the household and for this website. I like being able to write out my goals for the week on the page ahead of the week, and then being able to chart out my tasks in the week pages. I use a weekly format that has a block for each day of the week, but no times listed. I like it a little more open like that since I already have my day scheduled out.

You may find a digital solution works better for you but I've really found paper is great. I can jot down phone numbers, confirmation numbers, etc, when I'm talking to service people. I often list each day's lunch and dinner recipe above the daily block so I can see right away what I'll be cooking. I have menu planning sheets in my planner and I like those too. So for me paper helps manage the “to-do” lists.

Update: I now use a digital solution for planning because it allows me to have my to-do list on my computer or on my phone. It took a little getting used to but now I love the flexibility and portability of the system!

Now for the other lists like my “Baby List” I seem to find myself on the computer. Right now they're mostly in my little “virtual sticky note” program, which I love and has tons of uses. But I'm still looking for a slightly more organized solution. I have a software in mind but I want to review it fully.

Ok, that's a lot about lists! Like I said, my paper planner is my #1 to-do list helper. I'm still exploring other software and options to help on the computer. I'll update more in a couple of weeks when I've had time to try some applications for “mom friendliness” and for their ability to actually help you get things done!

The Posts in This Series:

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About the author 


Kristen is childbirth educator, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! She has spent years helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Find her on her website and helping families through her online childbirth class

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