My gripe against to-do lists…

Okay, since posting my homekeeping binder on February 18, I’ve discovered a few things.

1. The daily cleaning list I have is just too much stuff to be realistically accomplished, with all the other things I want to do in a day.

2. I can’t do everything I want in a day (okay, that’s not a great revelation to anyone). But really, not being able to check off my to-do list (whether it’s cleaning, or projects with the kids, or anything else), is incredibly deflating. I found out after 1 day of using the daily cleaning checklist that I only accomplished 1/4 of the things I set out to do that day. So there was many things left unchecked, and I was really discouraged.

3. I know I do accomplish a lot of things in a day, but you couldn’t tell by my cleaning checklist or my to-do list, because I end up doing more things than I originally set out to do as the day goes on.

In light of these facts, I’ve decided some things have to change. The first thing is listing the bare minimum needed to keep things running smoothly. Those things are must-dos if I expect the next day to function without major stress.

These would be items put on Flylady’s morning and evening routines.

For instance, before I go to bed, in order for the next day to go smoother, I must have these essentials done in the evening:

a. Family room/dining room – everyone helps pick up floor and clean up dining room table. I vacuum.
b. Kitchen: clean up dishes, run dishwasher
c. Bathroom: pick up clothes
d.Bedrooms: pick up toys, dirty clothes.
e. Make sure the washing machine is empty at night.

In the morning, to get my day started off right, I need to do these things:

a. Empty the dishwasher.
b. Clean up dishes immediately after breakfast
c. Throw a load of laundry in.
d. Think about dinner before 10* am.

* Seriously. By 10 am there’s still enough time to thaw something, or throw something in the crockpot for dinner, but if I put it off until 12 or later, it probably won’t happen without some serious scrambling and increases the chances we’re going to have take out. Right now, the menu planning part is going okay, but I can only plan a day or two ahead of time. But I am writing down the meals we do have in a week, and keeping the sheets, so that in the future, I may just be able to grab one of my old sheets and plan for the week ahead.

If nothing else gets done, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always tomorrow. Anything else I accomplish is of icing on the cake!

But the most significant thing I’ve realized is that there has been something missing. Not just another to-do list, that’s for sure. But rather, a daily record of what I have accomplished. I’ve realized for me, the daily to-do or to-clean lists by themselves are too depressing, I can’t check off enough to feel like I’ve accomplished much; because in fact, I can never accomplish all the things to-do and to-clean in a single day. Not with 3 little ones under 6. Not with art projects and science experiments to plan, montessori materials to make, and math games to start implementing, and reading to do with the little ones. Doing everything I set out to do is just not going to happen.

Instead of another To-do list, I’ve come up with a Daily Activity Tracker.

Yes, there are things I ought to do, places I should go, but in reality, the fact remains that there are lots of things I actually DO accomplish that aren’t necessarily what I originally set out to do, or take into account any surprise events (like when the unexpected play date throws a wrench into the daily agenda), or surprise moments of inspiration (I decide to start a project I’ve been thinking of for weeks and finally have gotten the inspiration to actually do it).

I was finding I wasn’t accomplishing very much because I couldn’t check many things off my To-DO list, mainly because I was tending to the unexpected play dates, or in the middle of a burst of creative inspiration, or otherwise realized my kids needed time to just be with me and watch a movie or play. So, instead, I decided to make a daily activity tracker. In one column, I can list the things I need to do (or places to go), and there’s a spot to check them off, and in another column, I can list the things I actually accomplished today. So that no matter what happens, not only do I know what I was supposed to do, and didn’t, but what took up my time instead. I can also monitor how long something takes, because sometimes I under- or over-estimate the amount of time required for a task. This column isn’t required, but it is a nice way to decide what to do in the future if you only have small chunks of time to work with.

Daily Activity Tracker – Column 1 “x”, column 2 “To Do”, (then an empty column I haven’t decided what to do with- it may just be a place holder), column 3 “Things Accomplished Today”, column 4 “How long it took”

I’ve also put an biblical quote on the top of the page as further inspiration and meditation.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17. I encourage you to put something inspirational on your lists. This may be of a religious or secular nature, whatever it is that may motivate and inspire you.

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This actually will record any and all of the projects I work on, the unexpected errands or play dates, and the include all of the items on the to-do list that I actually was able to do. At the end of the day, I’ll actually have an accountability of my time, and a reason why I wasn’t able to accomplish what I set out to do. Hopefully, with the addition of the time tracker, I’ll get a realistic view of how long things take.

At the end of the day, I will be able to actually see what we’ve done. I think that’s the most important part of any kind of to-do list. Not of what you have to do, but what you’ve actually accomplished. So now matter how many things I could not cross off any list, I know there’s going to be a pretty long list of things I’ve done.

So now, I don’t have to feel guilty about postponing a cleaning task because I spent a half an hour cutting out geometric shapes for a future art project. I will be able to include that in my list of accomplishments.

I think this new list is going to be a very good thing and I hope anyone reading will think about modifying your to-do lists too to include what you have accomplished.

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