I have been a work-at-home-mom for over 10 years. (We celebrated this milestone last month!) One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do you manage it all?” That’s a HUGE question and one I can’t really answer in one blog post. What I can share is how I manage each day and my to-do list.
No matter what your place in life, you have tasks that need to be accomplished each day. The style and level of effort required for each set of tasks changes as life change. What was on my task list when my children were newborns, is very different than what is on my list today. This might seem very obvious to you, but it’s an important fact to remember as we go forward.
Before I keep going, I also want to talk to the anti-list makers. My guess is that you don’t despise list making because you hate your handwriting, or you don’t have paper, but because the fear of failure stresses you out. I have a solution for you, so please keep reading.
First, let’s look what should be on your task, or to-do, list for today. If you already wrote one, grab it, I’ll wait.
How many things are on your list? More than 10. Well either you have a personal assistant (AWESOME!), you are a major achiever, you are very detail oriented and have every part of each task documented (not bad really), or, most likely, you have unrealistic expectations for today.
Assuming the later, let’s move forward. In order to make an effective task list, that doesn’t stress you out, you have to be realistic about the time you have to devote to your tasks today. If you constantly more on your list than you can cross off, you probably do not have a good idea of where your time goes each day. To fix this- make a detailed list of what you do all day, for a week. Write EVERYTHING down. Seriously. If you are days are spent at home with kids, you need a good week to really document your time. If you honestly repeat your days exactly, then make three days will do the trick. After you have recorded your time, see what is sucking the most of it, where you can save some time, and see how much time you have for tasks that usually make it to your to-do list.
Once you know how much time you have to spend each day on your to-do list items, keep this in mind as you make your list. This will keep you from making a 30 item list and feeling defeated that you got one thing done.
Here are my favorite stress relieving To-Do Lists tips:
- Keep it simple. A planner is great, but a small memo pad works too.
- Write it down to get it out of your head so you can think about other things.
- Only write down concrete, realistic tasks. World Peace, might be a bit to big for your daily task list.
- If an item stays on your list for more than 5 days, does it really need to be done? Yes- schedule it in your day, and take it off the list. No- drop it or delegate it.
- If something needs to be done, by a certain date, schedule it on your calendar, not your to-do list. If you use a digital calendar, make this an “all day” task, until you get to that day, then schedule time for it.
- Keep a DONE-LIST. If you find yourself doing things, that are necessary, during the day, but were not on your list, keep a “done” list. This will give you the same satisfaction as checking items off the to-do list. Promise.
- If you have a major event (i.e. party) or activity (i.e. paint living room) on your list, break it down into it’s parts. Limit yourself to how many parts you an do each day, based on your available time.
- With a long list of tasks, break them down into similar activities. “Batch” your work. And schedule time each day to do a little bit of it. I do this with cleaning. So instead of clean the house, I write, “Dust first floor” “Vacuum first floor”, etc.
- Keep a separate list of goals. This is especially helpful if you are starting or running a business. Take a look at them monthly, and break them down into smaller parts, which if realistic, can be added to your daily or weekly to-do lists.
- Include the basics on your to-do list. When you are a new parent, a shower, nap, and eating MUST make the list. These are huge accomplishments and will force you to take care of yourself, as well as attend to you baby.
Finally, if you deal with anxiety or depression as I do, my doctor recommended I make a daily task list. I have found it so helpful to both relieving anxiety and stress but also to helping me stay motivated when needed. What might look like a stressful practice, really can bring freedom and peace.
There are no prizes for checking things off your task list, usually at least, but if you make manageable lists of what is realistic for your life and time, I think you will find to-list making a valuable and stress relieving practice.
It’s your day, spend your time doing the things your love .