When you are a busy mom, life can sometimes feel like swimming upstream. I remember having the elastic come out of the wrist casing on the sleeve of my nightgown when I was the mother of 7 active children at home. I love to sew, and seaming up that elastic shouldn’t have taken longer than 10 minutes or so (once I got the sewing machine set up), but it was 10 minutes I didn’t have, and every time I wore that nightgown, I looked at that flopping sleeve and wondered why I couldn’t snag 10 minutes between the nursing and schooling and diapering and cooking and story-reading and bandaging and grocery shopping and counseling and cleaning up spills and . . . and all that a mom does. So, along with my 1-2-3 Goals, I started making my “Done List” (rather than “To Do” list).
A “To Do” List can be too discouraging. For one thing, once I started listing all the necessary and pressing things that needed doing, I had unleashed a torrent that lengthened and compounded . . . to the overwhelming point! Better to focus on what I did accomplish that day, rather than catalog all the impossibilities! So, instead of a “to do” list, I chose my 1-2-3 on-purpose things I wanted to get done that day—and tried to make them happen, no matter how small. And sometimes I was able to finish one or two more things! So I jotted those completed accomplishments on my list, too. And that list gave me enormous satisfaction! I had done something concrete, something on-purpose that would make a difference!
Now, I am not talking about the “have-to’s”: those things that are part of your responsibilities every day, such as putting on meals, bathing children, doing laundry, driving carpools, etc. (unless you have a new baby and getting dinner is your main goal of the day). I am talking about the purposeful doing of some thing that surely would not get done unless it was on your list. Such things as:
- riding your bike around the block
- planting flower seeds
- jotting a thank you note
- reading one chapter of a good book to your children
- making a quick phone call to a loved one
- straightening or cleaning out a drawer
- baking your husband’s favorite banana nut muffins
- crocheting for 15 minutes
- writing in your journal
- playing a song on the piano
- reading a book you’ve been wanting to, even for a few minutes
- matching socks
- fixing something broken
- taking a walk
- pulling weeds for few minutes
- taking the time to put on perfume and lipstick
- writing a letter to a missionary
- taking some photos of the flowers in your yard, or your cute kids
- cleaning out your purse or diaper bag
- writing in a baby book
When life is full and busy, and you don’t have a lot of control over your time, even small “to do’s” can be challenging. So, writing a “Done List” as I went through my day made more sense to me. It felt more positive. It cataloged the small accomplishments, and over a week’s time uplifted me, whereas a “To Do” list could weigh me down. No matter how much I did, there was so much more waiting that it made my accomplishment look minuscule by comparison. Much better to focus on what I did manage to do! That gave me hope, and I could see the good of it piling up, one tiny deed at a time, like small grains of rice that grow into a big heap one by one.
Funny thing about ‘To Do” lists is that while you are busy raising a family, much of those tasks never will get done, and it’s okay. I was looking through my fabric today and came across a little lavender Easter dress, size 4, that just needs its button and collar to be finished. I am still in the long process of sewing it for my first daughter, Julianna—who is now married. And it is okay. I did the important stuff, like teach her about God, and how to live and be happy. The rest is extra.
I’m not totally cured of making very long “To Do” lists to overwhelm myself, but those “Done Lists” sure do make me feel much more satisfied!