I have been making myself a daily to-do list since March 1 as per my 31 day challenge. I reasoned that producing and using a to-do list would help me better enact my monthly intentions. See Matters of the Heart: Take Two. Ironically, my to-do list had absolutely nothing to do with my intentions. It contained mundane things like change sheets in master bedroom, sign paperwork, pay bills, clean and organize desk, rsvp to the party, etc. Sometimes I listed everything I needed to do. Other times I listed only the most pressing things I needed to deal with. Writing down what I needed to do freed my mind from constantly having to remember everything allowing me more energy to connect better with my family. Or, at least, that’s what I’m betting on.
First and foremost, making lists reduced my anxiety. I am a very anxious person and I have a tendency to avoid things that are new and unfamiliar. Just this morning I conquered the first thing on my list, which for most people, would not produce a fight or flight response: researching how to register a new used car. Yup. But as soon as I started to research the steps I needed to take I felt better. Unfortunately, tomorrow I need to actually take the steps and that alone gives me anxiety. I rarely deal with either my insurance agent (I think that’s good news) or the RMV (I do everything online). Ugh. Somehow putting it on my list takes the edge off. And if you’re overwhelmed by too many mundane tasks a list can help you prioritize.
The other benefit I discovered from making lists is how focused it keeps me. Sometimes, when I finish one chore or errand, I go blank. I have to think about what I need to do next. Time is possibly wasted or worse, I may even forget to do something. I have been a more efficient person since using my to-do list every day. I now have special lists for certain days of the week that keep certain areas of my life in check.
The other wonderful benefit of making lists and using them (Yes, you actually have to use the list!) is the increase in my satisfaction with my day and myself. Crossing off each thing as I complete it makes me feel accomplished and in control. But I also don’t fret if I don’t get to everything. The list is a guide, not a punishment. Undone errands can be forwarded to another day. Life is messy and things change. We just got hit with a massive blizzard that has resulted with all three kids being home from school both yesterday and today. Let’s just say my to-do lists changed these last two days. Oh, and they have St. Patrick’s Day off too. Uncle!
I believe the power lies in making and using this list EVERY DAY. Even if all you get done is one thing. Don’t wait until you’re inspired or feeling overwhelmed and then forget about it when you return to your “normal”. I use a pretty inexpensive spiral bound journal. I write down the date and write down things as soon as I think of them. Sometimes I write my list before I go to bed or before I start my day and I add to it as I need to. I carry it into the kitchen and place it next to my coffee-maker so I can refer to it during the day.
Now, has it helped my to connect with my family better by freeing up mental energy to better focus on my intentions? Well, I cannot offer any scientific proof, but I do know that when I’m anxious and feeling overwhelmed I would be less likely to respond to bids for attention from my family, greet them warmly, not be sarcastic, and practice active listening. I believe I am calmer and I will continue to make my to-do lists and I will let you know my final thoughts at the end of March.
What about you? Do you make daily to-do lists? How do they work for you?