Mama life Hacks {#20}-The List That Changed My Life

Okay, so admittedly that title is a wee bit on the dramatic side.

But not untrue.

So, here’s the thing. I like to make lists. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of marking a line through a goal. Boom. Done. Cue: We Are the Champions (and Mighty Ducks flashbacks).

Planners are good too, since they force you to focus your list-making by day and time period. I’m a fan of both and have used both effectively. (Albeit inconsistently).

But here’s the thing: I have a tendency to overload my list.

I know this.

I know that when I write down: clean out girls’ closet, organize pantry, clean fridge, and plant front flowerbeds that I will, realistically, only get ONE of those things done (hopefully) in addition to the everyday stuff that I don’t bother to write down on the list.

I also know that I should probably write down that everyday stuff so I can check it off and feel better about myself when I get to end of the day and maybe don’t have ANY of the “extra” stuff done due to: unforeseen diaper blowouts on the sheets–necessitating a full nursery airing out and 87 foreseen but underestimated 3-year-old tantrums–necessitating accumulated hours of talking-to’s, praying, timeouts, and other various methods of discipline, etc. etc., etc.

Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my husband that I feel like I haven’t sat down or stopped “doing” all. day. long, and I’ve still “accomplished nothing.”

Honestly, if I were to hear another homeschooling mama of 6 say this, I’d be like: “Duh. You’re busy keeping half a dozen humans alive/fed/educated/reasonably happy.” But when it’s me, all I can see are the projects I never even started.

So, one day, this idea popped into my head: what if I wrote down EVERYTHING I do in a day–including time frames–so that I could be more realistic about my goals and also so that, by day’s end, I could look back and see exactly where my time was spent. No more of that: “I have no idea what I did today” business.

My hand got tired just thinking about such a list, so I decided to type it instead.

And you know what?

IT WORKED!

Totally.

Each day that I took the time to start out by typing my list, I ended feeling accomplished and satisfied with my work. Even if I hadn’t done anything “more” than what I consider a normal day.

The key was to include even the most mundane of tasks. Flipping a load of laundry? Yup. Getting the kids ready for the gym? Uh huh. Reading a story to the twins? Absolutely.

After all, they all take time, don’t they?

But if I don’t write them down, then I tend to discount those chunks of 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there, until I’m left with that frustratingly vague feeling of aimlessness when my day has been anything but.

In case you’re wondering what this list looks like exactly, here you go:  list1 list

This list is from several months ago on a random Tuesday (I don’t save most of my lists), and it’s fairly representative of a typical Tuesday during the school year (notice homeschooling was not on the list because Tuesdays were one of the days that my mom came to teach the kids).

Obviously, I didn’t get every last little thing checked off. Even when I try to be realistic by breaking things down sometimes by 5-15 minutes increments, I can still get too ambitious.

BUT! I can look at that day and see that my time was not spent idly and that I did accomplish a fair bit.

Some days, there’s quite a bit less red, due to my own hubris or unexpected distractions. Maaaaaaybe one day, I’ve checked every last thing off (I doubt it, though).

But the peace that this list gives me at the end of each day? That’s consistent.

Full disclosure: so far this summer has felt about as organized as a toddler-planned birthday party.

Trips!

Sickness.

Birthdays!

Shaun’s traveling.

Swimming with friends!

Seriously. It’s all over the place. That’s summer, right?

But I’m definitely starting to crave more order, so today, I made my first list in a month, and it went a little something like this:

MONDAY:

6:30 – Feed twins + Theo

7:00 – Make/eat breakfast

7:30 – Hang out with Alby (he just got back from a trip, and I’ve barely seen him)

8:30 – Bible reading with kids (totally haven’t done this yet because they weren’t all awake)

8:45 – Write blog

9:15 – Research/load new Audible book

9:30 – Get kids ready for gym

9:45 – Leave for gym

10:15 – Do Combat + 1/2 hour of weights

11:45 – Grocery shopping with kids

1:00 – Lunch

1:30 – Little kids down for naps

1:45 – Rest time

2:15 – Practice reading with Della

2:45 – Sort/start load of laundry

3:00 – Start dinner prep

3:45 – Put away laundry  in bedroom

4:00 – Wipe down kitchen cabinets

4:20 – Play outside with kids

5:00 – Finish dinner for kids

5:30 – Kids eat

6:15 – Read Bible reading (since we didn’t do it earlier)

6:45 – Play time

7:15 – Get kids ready for bed

7:30 – Kids in bed

7:30 – Finish dinner for Alby (I didn’t get to make his Father’s Day dinner last night, so we’re going to attempt a “date night at home” tonight; I certainly don’t usually cook two dinners or get my kids down by 7:30…wish us luck!)

8:00 – Eat dinner + hang out with Alby

Clearly, since it’s summer, there’s a lot more free time and margin for rest, but I think I’ll still enjoy highlighting (most of) these things in red tonight.

So…what do you think of my epiphany? Maybe not feeling accomplished at the end of the day is something you never struggle with, but if it is, and you often feel like you’re not sure where the time went, I HIGHLY recommend at least trying this method.

It’s done wonders for my sanity.

 

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7 thoughts on “Mama life Hacks {#20}-The List That Changed My Life

  1. I highly recommend the website flylady.net. Making a control journal and the use of the flylady calendar changed my life and house. Whenever I feel feel overwhelmed, I simply make list and/or set a timer for 15 minutes, accomplish what I can, then move on. Making lists helps me stay calm, focused and prioritize goals. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  2. I actually do weekly lists. Doesn’t include the mundane, mostly extras like projects (with/without the kids,) appts, reminders etc. but when I started weekly lists, I allowed myself much more grace for the days I don’t “get anything done” except keep my 4 kids alive. I love the weekly to do instead of disappointing myself with incomplete daily lists.

  3. I love this! I constantly feel like I run myself ragged yet accomplish nothing and its so frustrating! (definitely a toddler planned bday party in my house) I would love to try and write down everything i do and how long it takes me for a few days, I feel like it would be a wake up call about where my time is spent and how to spend some of it more effectively. Thank you for this!

  4. Thanks, Abbie, for the timely reminder to make my lists more accurate. Because, caring for my four little girl humans really is a whole lotta something getting done! The encouragement was needed.

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