Are you a busy mom? Are you always thinking about what is the most important thing to do? Are you tired of making a daily to-do list and feeling like you’re spinning your wheels?
No matter if you’re a working mom away from home, or a working stay-at-home mom, there are ways that you can easily work on your time management to find a better way to set up a daily routine that works for you.
Since there are a lot of things that go into mom life, it can be hard to figure out all the different ways to schedule your personal life, your kids’ social lives, and still work on your own mental health and monitor screen time for the kids. Is there a way to get a great feeling while organizing your daily life?
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Here are a few different things that combine smaller tasks with larger tasks that make your daily checklist that much more manageable. (and also spoiler alert- you don’t even need a checklist at all!)
I once took this amazing course from Elayna Fernandez, The Positive Mom, called Stepping Into Balance.
She really challenged me during the course as she pushed me toward a new way of thinking about goal creation, what a balanced life looks like, what my passions and purpose are, and how to deal with anger and frustrations in new ways. And a whole lot more.
One part that was especially challenging to me was her insistence on getting rid of to-do lists!
I love making a to-do list, feeling the satisfaction that comes with checking off each item once completed.
More than anything, it feels great knowing that with my trusty list, I won’t forget something important, giving me a sense of pride and validation! I can easily see what still needs to be done and when.
Having a checklist of items to complete helps me focus when it comes time to run errands, clean the house, teach homeschool, fulfill church obligations, and focus when it’s my work time (as I’m my own boss).
Checklists and to-do lists are my nice security blanket in a world of overwhelm, forgetfulness, and chaos of parenting young kids.
And Elayna told me to trash my to-do lists!
To say that made me a bit annoyed is an understatement.
What do you mean trash them? Why when they make me feel so much more organized?!
Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work
But, as a mom trying to balance my many hats in life, I had bought into the lie that balance is all about how I do it all, how I check off all the items on my list, and remember all the appointments and deadlines.
“But, the issue with the to-do list is that it turns us into list-slaves, placing our value, our worth, and our sanity into what we did or didn’t get done during a given day.” she said.
“Trying to DO everything…for everyone leaves moms frustrated, overwhelmed, and depleted. It produces mommy guilt and letdown because ‘checking everything off,’ ‘pleasing everyone,’ or ‘meeting everyone’s needs’ are all unattainable goals.
“If someone ever told you they achieved any of these, they lied…blatantly and mercilessly,” said Fernandez.
There is always more to be done, more “pleasing” and needs to come.
But, I am like many moms who rely on to-lists, coffee, or wine to help keep me sane, however, “the truth is that all three of those are detrimental to your productivity, holistic health, and self-esteem.
To-do lists can be torturous because we’re always going to feel bad that we didn’t get to everything on our list and end up drained, depressed, and depleted.
The guilt, the regret, and the sense of incompleteness is a huge energy sucker, not to mention how stressing it can be” Elayna reminded me.
She also shared the research that shows that around 41% of all to-lists are never completed.
How to Know If Your To-Do List is Truly Helpful
She said that to-do lists can be effective, and they can work, though!
She said you can know if to-do lists work for you IF you feel the peace, quietness, and assurance of Isaiah 32:17:
“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.”
If you don’t, then it isn’t really helping you be more productive, as true productivity, creativity, and progress are only possible in a state of calmness.
But, I still pushed back, because, LISTS! Organization! How can I give up on those? I can’t live a life in chaos!
I need order and structure and at least somewhere to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing as my mommy brain and sleep exhaustion prevent my brain from working at full capacity, especially by the end of the day when I’m supposed to be working.
So, she gave a modified way to do the to-do lists.
The (Modified) To-Do List
1. Write it all down.
Do a 5-minute brain dump of everything and anything needing to be done in the next few days or weeks in any area of your life on a piece of paper.
2. Prioritize Items.
Mark them with Delete, Delegate, and Do. Delete items you don’t really need to do in the next few days or weeks. Delegate tasks to others which can be delegated. Do tasks are the ones that really matter.
3. Schedule your items.
When you have your final list, use your favorite calendar and schedule them for specific days and times to be completed. However, each day there can only be THREE items on your list, written in order of importance. Write this list the night before and date it. And do not multi-task.
By discarding, delegating, and calendaring your to-do’s, you can move on and release any anxiety you build up when it is an incomplete on your irritation list, because it’s no longer something you’re putting off or avoiding. The most important things are planned out.
She insists that by deciding to do less, you feel like you did more, because you are present to make a difference in the lives of the people in your care and the people you choose to care for.
How to Throw Away Your To-Do List
This process is very similar to what was recommended in The Life Coach School Podcast #261 – Throw Away Your To-Do List (which I highly recommend listening to – it’s SO good and it’s implications life-changing).
Brooke of the Life Coach School’s process is even more detailed.
Here’s how the Life Coach School recommends doing her brain-dump and list and scheduling process:
Time needed: 2 hours.
How to throw away the to-do list and get more done
- Throw away your old to-do list first.
Keep maybe the truly important items.
- Write down everything you have to do.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down every single thing that you want to do and that you have to do in every aspect of your life. What would be awesome if you did? What would you wish that you would do? Keep writing, asking yourself what else? What else? Get every single little thing and detail and idea down.
- Ask what else? again.
Work things, personal things, family things, future things, house things, vacation things, health things, all of it. Just get everything out of your brain and onto that paper.
- Take a mini-break.
Put the pencil down, get a drink of water, step away for a minute.
- Write down the obstacles.
Get a new piece of paper and write down all the obstacles that are in the way of achieving all those things on your list. If there’s a big thing that takes 4-5 steps, break down all the steps completely.
For example: you need to get recommendations for someone to fix that thing in your house, research those recommendations, then call them all and get quotes, and then pay for it. List all the obstacles in the way of completing your to-list and everything blocking you.
- Take a rest.
Let your brain rest, telling it you’ve got it all down and captured so it can rest now. Maybe take a nap or go to bed even.
- Eliminate everything you don’t want to do.
Now go through your list, and say to yourself “I don’t have to do anything on this list. I don’t have to do it.” You have permission right now to just never do them. There will be consequences for not doing them, but decide it’s okay. Completely eliminate those items from your list. Cross them off as something you’re not going to do or something you’ll give it to someone else to do for you.
- Prioritize your list in terms of when it needs to get done.
Prioritize the list in terms of when it needs to get done, and what the most important, though not urgent, things on the list. If things are urgent, you’re going to chill about them, and extend their timelines if you have to, especially if they’re arbitrary timelines.
- Transfer items to your calendar.
Now transfer your numbered prioritized list to your calendar. Designate a specific day, and a specific time that you will get each item done, and put it in your calendar, whether paper or digital. Set up reminders in your phone or on your Google Home or Echo devices for those times.
You won’t want to do this, but you must do this. This is the secret to getting everything done.
- Throw away the to-do list!
Once every item has been calendared, throw away the to-do list!
- Honor yourself and complete the items as calendared.
Overcome the urges in the moment not to do the thing you scheduled to do when the time comes to do them. Keep your own commitment to yourself, honor yourself, and get it done! When you overcome those urges for instant gratification, making the switch into delayed gratification, that’s when your life completely uplevels.
- Repeat this process every week.
Do this every Sunday evening, or first thing every Monday morning, or some other time and day that works for you. Calendar it in as something to do weekly.
In order to become more present at home and more productive at work, you need to learn to monotask, prioritize, and calendar your to-dos.
But you need to make sure those all complement the list Elayna insists is of far, far more importance: Your To-Be List.
The To-Be List
Elayna wanted me to focus not on what I did each and every day, but what I was. She wanted me to do less and be more.
As she said, we are all human BEings, not human DOings!
She insisted again and again that life and time are gifts and not things you can control or manage, as they are not ours to manage.
Life is a journey, an experience. It’s time that we all start focusing not on doing but on BEing!
Each day Elayna sets an intention, says a prayer, and creates her day by asking herself:
- Who do I want to help?
- What do I want to help them achieve?
- Who do I need to BE in order to do that?
Life is most fulfilling when it includes other people, so how we make others feel is extremely important.
As Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Most of us want people around us to feel good, to feel loved, to feel appreciated, especially when the people around us are our family members.
When our children look back on their childhoods, do we want them to say “Mom always made sure the dishes were clean right after dinner and the laundry was folded and put away” or for them to say “Mom always made me feel so loved as she took time out from whatever she was doing to listen to me and come play with me.“
I will admit that I’ve been defaulting far too much lately to the to-do lists, to checking off all the homemaking duties all day long, to focusing on work when I am attempting to homeschool and raise my children, to prioritizing all the wrong things.
I don’t want my children to remember me for yelling at them to clean their room 15 times, ignoring them when they ask me to play with them or read a book, or rushing our conversations along because we have somewhere to go.
I also don’t want my husband feeling disrespected as I shoot down his ideas because they don’t mesh with my agenda items.
So, I took the time to review the items I put on my To Be list over a year ago.
Items on my “to-be” list are:
- To be patient.
- To be kind.
- To be optimistic and hopeful.
- To be honest and true.
- To be thankful and appreciative to God.
- To be joyous and happy.
- To be present and engaged.
- To be a friend.
- To be an example of faith.
- To be like Jesus, full of love, compassion, humility, kindness, an understanding heart, and of love unfeigned for all.
I want my family and others around me to feel loved, I need to remember that love is about whom you can BE for the people who matter most to you, and not about what you can do for them.
For my children, I can be a mom who makes them feel good about their everyday accomplishments.
I can be a mom who is reliable and dependable and trustworthy, keeping my word when I say we’ll go to the park, or I will play with them as soon as I am done wiping down the table.
I can be a mom who is patient with them when they are struggling to try something new, instead of throwing up my hands and insisting they let me do it for them instead because we are running late.
I can be a joyous and happy mom by viewing my children as God sees them.
For my husband, I can be a friend when he needs to vent and complain.
I can be reliable to do the tasks he is counting on me to do as the matriarch and primary caregiver for our children. I can be present and engaged by listening to him without interrupting or browsing on my phone while doing so.
When I take the time to focus more on being the version of myself I know I can be, and the relationships I want to have, I find joy in even the mundane parts of life.
While I was taking the course I had a few crazy busy days in a row with lots of “to-do’s.”
But, even with the 100 things I did, I felt happy, joy, and balanced. I felt love.
And it was because I focused on the “to be’s” instead of the to-do’s.
The To-Be’s provided me the joy in completing my to-do’s.
I know God sustained and supported me over these crazy days, and I feel His love shining down on me for taking the time to connect with my children, with my husband, and with myself.
I was able to grasp the big picture among all the little things I am doing. And it was such a wonderful feeling.
And I desire to feel that again, so to remind myself, I requested a T-Shirt from Cents of Style from their Be Series Graphic Tees which they provided in exchange for this post.
My new Just BE tee is to remind me that my to-do lists are overrated as are my written and mental checklists if I am not working on being the type of person I really want to be remembered as.
I need to be okay with just being and not always doing.
I need to let things slide off my back and be more joyful and positive.
I need to really be with my children instead of distracted by work, social media, or other things to do.
I need to be. Just be. Not do.
Will you experiment with me and instead of creating a to-do list, intentionally, consciously, and purposely list whom you want to BE?
Elayna promised that it will expand, enlarge, and magnify your life experience and inspire others (including your kids) to do the same!
When you create your To-Be list, identify qualities, virtues, and characteristics you most want to embody. You can also do this for work-related characteristics, identifying what you want your business to be, what type of employee, manager, or boss you want to be, and so on.
“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.”Habakkuk 2:2
Whatever you want to be (and not feel you should be), put it in writing, and start your day not so worried about what you will do, but who you will be today. And the next day.
- Do you want to be joyful, balanced, engaged, responsive, nurturing?
- Do you wish to be empowered, serene, and loving?
- Do you crave feeling passionate, adventurous, and playful?
As much as I hate to admit it, Elayna makes a very good argument against the to-do list. And how thankful I am that she does.
If you need help and feel like you’re in survival mode with a daunting task or endless amounts of sticky notes that are enough to make any list maker crazy, you can set priorities that will actually give you extra time.
It’s important to find enough time to make sure that the most important tasks get accomplished, but there is a great way to get it done! Stop letting the daily tasks stress you out, and at the start of each day, try this instead! Self care is important, and these tips will help!
Robyn Nichols says
I just love these to be ideas.I have raised my children and now help with my granddaughters.I see things so different now and want to help my daughter learn from my mistakes.I did the best I could or knew how.But have learned to keep quiet,well most of the time,she doesn’t feel she needs my advice.
I too am LDS and know how special it is to have children.With the girls when they begin to get to me,I step back and take a deep breath and say Thank you Heavenly Father,help me to be a good grandma.
again thankyou for this post
Katelyn Fagan says
You are so welcome Robyn! I need to take more deep breaths in my life, as well as steps back. Whew. Parenting little ones is challenging, but reminding myself of who I want to BE and how I want them to remember me, makes a big difference in my attitude and approach to parenting and discipline.
Jenny @ Unremarkable Files says
I love the idea of a to-be list instead of to-do list. I’ve tried sometimes to limit my to-do list to just 3 items, because often that’s all I can realistically do in a day! Kind of depressing if I can get only 3 things done in a day – but I’m also keeping 6 small people alive, so there’s that…
Katelyn Fagan says
I mean, it’s 3 OTHER things you need to get done in that day beside the normal billion you do each day. Or that’s what I tell myself. I don’t need to write down things I’m gonna do every day regardless, so three things seems more feasible then. This week and last I’ve been trying better to prioritize the items on my list (I still can’t stop writing down the stuff) and it’s been helping me focus too.