Do you keep a daily to do list? How is that working for you? If you’re like many busy moms, you grab a piece of paper, jot down a list of things you’d like to accomplish during the day, and make a mental note of when you’d like to get these to-do items accomplished. But then life happens.
Texts come in, Facebook distracts you, the kids need something, emails need to be returned, and you spend your time extinguishing other little fires throughout the day. If you’re lucky, you might even cross a few things off of your to-do list, but it’s typically something that must get done, like buying dinner for the night.
But mostly you’re left feeling overwhelmed by everything you didn’t get done.
Can you relate?
The Traditional Daily To Do List Doesn’t Work
The hard truth is that the traditional to do list just don’t work. Jotting down a random list of things that you’d like to accomplish during the day seems like a good idea. I mean you need to do something with all of that information floating around in your brain, right?
Yes, you do. And that’s why there’s a much better system for getting those important things done. It’s time to ditch the traditional to-do list and do this instead.
You need a system for prioritizing and calendaring your tasks. I use my Daily Inspiration Planner and Journal to helps me keep track of all of my most important tasks.
Here’s how it works:
The “Mommy Brain Dump.”
Each night before going to bed, you need to grab a pen and paper and list out everything that’s floating around in your head. Work deadlines, homework assignments, appointments to be scheduled, items that you need to purchase, whatever it is, get it down on paper.
Then you will start to process that information. I love Evernote and also keep a Daily Review Notebook in Evernote to add items to throughout the day, so this is the time I’ll process those notes as well.
Once you have all of your items down on paper or Evernote or whatever program you use, it’s time to start prioritizing.
Prioritize Your Tasks
Now you’re going to take those tasks and put them into one of three categories:
- Don’t Really Have To Do
In your must-do category, these are the things that, well, must be done. You need to meet deadlines, grocery shop, help the kids with homework, do laundry, return important emails, etc.
You’ll want to add these “must-dos” to your calendar. If it’s something that you have to do over and over, then you want to automate it by making a recurring appointment with yourself on your calendar to get it done. For example, returning emails can be done at the same time each day. Schedule a 15-minute window, maybe 2-3 times a day to respond to emails. Then don’t allow yourself to check your email throughout the day.
If you are consistent with your brain dump, then over time these “must-dos” won’t feel overwhelming because you will have automated or processed them in advance.
In your want-to-do category, you’ll list things like long-term goals, self-care activities, and any other thing that you’ve wanted to do but just haven’t found the time to do them.
Now you are going to find time to do them. These items are personally fulfilling, like a home project, a long-term goal, exercise, having lunch with a friend, or reading a novel. If you are going to enjoy your life, you need to nourish your mind, body, and soul.
I recommend doing something from your want-to-do category at least once a day.
In your don’t really have to do category, are things that have little importance to you or that you can delegate to someone else.
This category is the hardest to manage. If you’re a people pleaser like me, then saying no can be a real challenge. Last year, I read Lysa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes, and it changed the way I respond to other people’s request for my time. If I can’t give it my best yes, then I have to say no. You must read this book if saying no is a challenge for you, too.
The other way to manage this category is to delegate. Take a hard look at your list and circle those things that other people could do for you. Learning to delegate is a skill that the most successful moms have mastered. If the task is something you don’t have to do personally, then figure out a way to delegate.
And don’t be afraid to ask a friend for help when you need it. Leaving your kids with a friend for a few hours could save your sanity and you can repay the favor in the future. You’ll both be happier.
Please, Don’t Multi-Task
The last thing I want to mention is that you should try not to multi-task. Let’s face it, multi-tasking doesn’t work. We want it to work. We really want it to work.
I mean life wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could simultaneously return emails/texts while helping the kids with homework or listening in on an important conference call?
Some multitasking actually works, like folding laundry (a truly mind-numbing activity) while listening to that audiobook we’ve desperately been trying to finish for the last three months. But trying to switch back and forth between two tasks that require your focus, just doesn’t work. And the research proves this to be true. I mean that’s why we have laws against texting and driving.
The other problem with trying to multi-task is that it makes us anxious and overstimulated. It is physically and mentally draining on our bodies. Please, don’t try to multi-task.
We have to face facts. We are not computers, we are humans. Even though, as moms, we often feel like computers since we are required to process so much information for all of the people in our home.
Use your calendar. Block out your most important tasks. Once you’ve ditched your to-do list and started delegating, automating, and calendaring your task, you won’t need to multi-task.
How do you manage your to-dos? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments section below.