8 Secrets to Downsizing Your To-Do List For Working Moms
It’s early in the morning. You can barely keep your eyes open and you really need a cup of coffee and probably a shower. So you pad yourself over quietly to the bathroom, likely stepping over some clothes and maybe a child who crawled into your bed or your floor, to get yourself ready for work before the morning really begins. If you are anything like me, while in the shower you start to think of your day and the ever growing “to do list”…the email you couldn’t send out because you had to run out to catch your train, the school calendar, the show and share item for that day, dinner - and the stress sets in. How will it all get done?
I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I live and breath by to do lists….lots and lots of to do list. But when they are too long and too impossible, it is daunting. So, here are some tips to downsize your to do list and make daily life just a wee bit easier.
While it sounds obvious, when making your to-do list, you should figure out what is most important and urgent. From there, create several priority levels and place each task into the correct group.
That way you can make the harder and more time-consuming tasks top-priority and do them first. Or, sometimes, I find there are small, quick less daunting items that I can bang out quickly and feel a little more accomplished. But, you don’t know until you make the list and prioritize. A great tool that I LOVE LOVE LOVE is wunderlist, however Microsoft is phasing it out with a new program “TO DO”. I plan to convert over to TO DO when Microsoft makes me. Stay tuned! In any event, Wunderlist is great because I can access on my phone, computer and ipad and everything syncs. Of course, old fashioned pen and paper works too.
Furthermore, this can help you see what you can or can’t do each day; if you have more than three top-priority tasks for one day, you might want to move some of them to another day or reassign them to somebody else, especially when they’re work-related.
Be realistic, you are HUMAN. For instance, you are not going to tear down the wallpaper in the bathroom and create an action plan for a new work project in one day. That is setting yourself up for failure. There’s only so much a person can do, never forget that.
2. Start Early
I like the procrastinate like the next gal, but there is truth to the saying “the early bird gets the worm”. It’s likely you’ll get more things done in the morning before your day steam rolls past you.
So make it your routine to go to bed and wake up 15 minutes or even half an hour earlier, so that you can finish some of your quick tasks before you go to work. Even if this task is to workout, meditate, read…whatever it may be…
This also means you’ll be up before your kids for long enough to have that cup of coffee or have a shower without little feet running in and out of the bathroom.
3. Add Notes
If some tasks on your to-do list take several steps to perform, it might help to write notes.
That way you can break big tasks into smaller and easier-to-do chunks.
In addition, thanks to these notes, you won’t forget to do something.
For example, if you put your laundry into your washer and dryer, make a note to fold and put away the laundry later. If you have to get a report out, a note can remind you to send it to your boss after it’s done.
More importantly, nothing makes me feel better than CHECKING THINGS OFF MY LIST. When you put notes, you mentally feel more accomplished because you are checking things off your to do list.
4. Get Support
It’s perfectly fine if you can’t do everything yourself.
You may not have time for everything, but sometimes you simply don’t have the required skills. So, there are things you can delegate to your kids or partner. If you can’t….some things you can pay people to do!
I get it, I am pretty cheap and I hate spending money if I do not have to. But, hiring a cleaning lady, a lawn guy and a handyman have made huge differences. It also helps my marriage. I am not nagging my husband to mow the lawn or fix the gutter, nor am I attempting it myself (which, let’s face it, is easier than nagging). After all, these are things that will be done better if you hire a professional.
And when it comes to work, talk your to-do list through with your co-workers, to see if they can help you, or simply give you advice on how to do it faster and more efficiently. I find my colleagues are often my best resource to streamline my list.
5. Take Smart Breaks
The things you have to do daily can leave you feeling overwhelmed and in panic. Avoid that by making useful breaks.
You shouldn’t have a fixed time for your breaks, but rather schedule the breaks after certain to-do tasks; decide which ones you have to do before each of your breaks and stick to that. For instance, I will often knock off a bunch of smaller tasks when I first get to the office when I know it will take an hour or so, then I will take a much needed breather before starting a longer project. Getting rid of those smaller tasks not only makes me feel more accomplished, but I am more likely to stay focused on the more daunting larger task.
Also, instead of taking one long break, take several shorter ones and make them count by getting energized. For instance, the other day I was working at home and it was a beautiful day. I had a break in my day so I grabbed my neighbor (who was also working from home) and we took a quick 20 minute walk around the block. What did this do? Well, I got outside on a beautiful day. I also got some non-work talk and human interaction on a work from home day. But also, I got a little detachment so I could go back in and re-focus. Much more useful than scrolling instagram.
6. Adjust Your List
Sometimes you just need to be flexible. Move the items from your list to fit your home and work schedule, as well as your free time.
Put the tasks in the order they can actually be done and remove the ones that don’t have to be done from the list.
Whenever possible, blend today and tomorrow’s tasks together.
For instance, if you are doing 3 loads of laundry, maybe you just set aside one chunk of time to fold it all instead of doing it as it comes out of the dryer. Just try to get it done rather than bleed over to the weekend (I am SO guilty of this!)
Also, group tasks that are similar or bound to a certain time and place, so that you can do them quicker and within the same time frame.
7. Make Two To-Do Lists For Working Moms
I always separate my home and work to do lists – otherwise it would feel too daunting and I may never start! Also, since I work from home three days a week, I would be too tempted to tackle the home list while I should be focusing on the work list. I try to, for the most part, keep my 9-5 part of my day work related.
A good idea would be to make your work to-do list at the end of your working day and leave it at the office or on your desk in your home office/work area. This way you can be more productive at work, since you don’t have to think about buying snacks for the school party or picking up forms at the doctor’s office.
Similarly, when you’re home, you can be present, put away the work and focus on your family.
8. Remove Distractions
If you feel there are too many distractions, well, you need to get rid of them!! Sometimes my own phone is my biggest distraction – the notifications are too tough to ignore. So maybe I need to put it in another room or upstairs or outside.
We’ve all been there, it is too easy to get lost in the feed or a group chat. But, once you get interrupted, it takes some time to get your mind back to what you were doing, not to mention the mistakes this may cause.
Finishing your to-do list feels great, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it every day. Things happen. Things pop up. Life happens. But, if you do your best to focus and try to get it done, then that is a right step.
And don’t forget to reward yourself from time to time. Life isn’t a big to-do list, so always make time to enjoy it.