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Tuesday Tip: Make a To-Do List

small spiral notebook with to do list written on it on pink background. Woman's hand with pink nail polish is shown writing with a pencil.

My life has been feeling very chaotic lately…

Like, so chaotic.

We’re in the middle of a move (so boxes everywhere…check out my latest YouTube video for proof!). My mother is living with us (well, we’re living with her, as she bought our house). I expanded my role at the publishing house for which I work. Fall activities for the kids have begun, and on top of that, I signed up for a bunch of volunteer work. And my 17-month-old just started walking…I mean, running. He is literally running around the house, injuring himself every five seconds.

In the midst of all of this, I exist in survival mode.

Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Cram as much work time in as I can until the kids are up at 7:00. Get one kid off to school, meal prep, return to work, put baby down for nap, cram in more work, make lunches, enjoy the solid chunk of work time that afternoons bring, and then all bets are off from dinner time onward. Maybe I’ll work for an hour or two before bed, but usually, I’m too tired. Throughout the day, one thousand e-mails chime at me, announcing their entry into my inbox (okay, maybe that’s hyperbole…but there are a lot of e-mails), calls with questions about the new house, children needing various things: to be nursed; to be taken potty; to be given a sweater, snack, book, snack, Kleenex, snack… How many snacks do kids need?! You get the point: I am so blessed—all of this is such a privilege—but all of this can feel overwhelmingly chaotic at times.

And lately, the chaos has left me feeling unaccomplished. I get through the day and wonder, What do I have to show for it?

Yes, yes, on the days I watch my children, I’ve kept them alive, and that’s enough. I’m not pushing you to feel like you have to be über productive to feel accomplished. (I’ll touch on that in another post soon.) What I want to encourage you to recognize is that you probably are doing a lot in your day; you just need to write it down to see it.

Make a to-do list.

Every day for the past few days I’ve been making a to-do list in the morning—right away, first thing. I prefer the Emily Ley Simplified Planners, as they have a column for daily appointments and a column for daily tasks (and they’re super cute as well). As I drink my coffee, I map out my day. Here are the appointments I have, here are the tasks I’d like to get done, here’s where I’d like to fit in some exercise, meal prep, etc. Yes, write down everything you plan to do. No task is too small, but don’t overload yourself. Be reasonable. There’s nothing worse than getting through the day and realizing that you have ten tasks you didn’t get done because you were overzealous in planning your day. Include things like chores, errands, meal prep, calls to make, and work tasks. Try to break larger projects into smaller actions. Rather than writing the big project down every day until it’s done, write what element in it you can accomplish today.

By the end of the day, you’ll realize that even though things seem frenzied, messy, and out of control, you are actually getting a ton of stuff done! And once that feeling sinks in, you’ll be that much more empowered to continue the momentum.

To-do lists are a small activity that seem short-sighted, but they are crucial for longterm success because not only do they help you focus your intentions, but they help keep you motivated and acting on your larger goals. Because you’ll be more connected to your purpose. You won’t overlook the little tasks that build toward bigger goals. And you’ll be encouraged by the knowledge of your progress.

Go get ’em.