"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Friday, June 25, 2010

Confession of an Obsessive List Maker

Okay, so yesterday I told you I had come up with a way to accomplish a lot more, and promised to share it today. I have to confess that I am one of those people who is completely lost without a list. I don't get much of anything done.

I used to write out lists on any paper I could find, and often had a notebook that would contain one giant list - unorganized and pages long because I kept thinking of things that should be on it. I loved crossing things off my list, so when something was completed, regardless of where it was on the list, I would cross it off. This made for a very long, ongoing, partially completed and very sloppy list. The problem with doing it that way was that I would spend more time reading through the list and trying to decipher what still needed to be done than I spent actually doing the things on the list. Ha. I'm sure you fellow list-makers can relate.

So one day it occurred to me that I was spending a ton of time recopying my list and reading through it to see where I was. I needed a better system. So I decided to computerize it. I opened a Word document and just started typing out all the things I needed to get done. (I saved the list as "Ongoing list" and just leave it open all day.) I made headers for each day for the next two weeks, and began scheduling the items onto specific days. I moved some of the items into a list at the bottom of the page under a category called "On hold/Unscheduled." These were things that needed to have some prep work done or that I wasn't sure I wanted to do at all. Many were still in the "thinking about it" stage.

As the days went by, I started to develop a core list of things that needed to be done each day. I created another section at the bottom called "Typical Weekday" and just keep adding things there. At the bottom of that list I have other notes for specific days - for example Tuesday: Attend Ladies' Bible Study, and Friday: wash all daycare bedding, sanitize toys, etc. and I just add those things onto the correct days. This step makes it effortless to extend the list as the days go by.

As items on today's list are accomplished, I simply delete them, and my list shrinks! Very encouraging!! I also found it fun and highly motivating to keep track of how much I accomplished on a daily basis. So I created the "past performance" section at the very bottom. Before I do anything from a day's list (usually the night before) I write the total number of items on the list at the top, next to the date. If I do something in a day that wasn't already on the list, I just add to the total number at the top (instead of 45 items which I started with, I now have 50, etc.) At the end of the day, I write how many I accomplished, and give myself a percentage. For example 45/55= 82%. This became WAY more motivating when I created a chart on graph paper and began charting my daily progress. Before that I was hit or miss, but since I made the chart, I have always completed at least 50% of my list ... and I tend to run between 50-70 items per day on the list. My typical weekday list is currently 34 items long. (This is the base I start with, then add more items to that - things that don't get done every day.) I find this extremely motivating and I'm accomplishing a lot more than I ever did before. I have even created a category for "extras" - bigger lingering tasks, that I can pick and choose from on a whim. I've cut that list in half over the past week because it's motivating to get it done.

This may seem very obsessive to some of you, but I needed some structure. I have very basic things on the list as well as the bigger things. I'm learning to be consistent in all I do. They say (whoever "they" are) that if you do something for 21 days (or maybe it's 27 days - I can't remember) in a row, it will become a habit. Well, that's why all the basic stuff is on the list. I am training myself to be consistent. Things I already do consistently without fail (for example meals with the daycare kids) don't go onto the list because I know I will do them. (ha - just try not feeding them and see what happens!) But things I struggle with (making dinner rather than wanting to go out to eat after a long day) make it onto the list. That one appears as "Begin dinner prep by 3 pm" - this may include actual cooking (baking bread or starting pizza dough) or it may just be having a plan and getting the chicken (or whatever) defrosted. This step alone has saved a great deal of stress over what to make.

For those who are interested, here is my basic list for a typical weekday:
  1. Read 3 chapters from the Bible (4 on weekend days)
  2. Pray
  3. Work on Bible Study
  4. Read a Bible story to my kids
  5. Read a chapter of ____ (whatever book I'm in the middle of - always non-fiction)
  6. Play through 20 hymns on the piano
  7. Play on floor with daycare kids
  8. Preschool worksheet
  9. Preschool art (I specify what - ie - marble painting)
  10. Read to daycare kids and record minutes (for our library reading challenge)
  11. Prep tomorrow's preschool lessons
  12. Give (my 6 year old) his pill (he's in a trial study)
  13. Begin dinner before 3 pm
  14. Blog post - (specify topic) - This just got added to the list yesterday
  15. Make my husband's lunch for work
  16. Set up the coffee maker for tomorrow
  17. Work out with weights
  18. Walk on treadmill
  19. Update menu calendar for daycare meal reimbursements
  20. Clean kids' bathroom
  21. One project out on the table at a time
  22. Put dishes away (morning - empty dishwasher, put hand washed dishes away)
  23. Wash dishes (end of day - load dishwasher, do hand washing)
  24. Sweep
  25. Empty diaper trash
  26. Homeschool math
  27. Homeschool phonics
  28. Homeschool reading (kindergarten/1st grade level for all of these)
  29. Water outdoor flowers and vegetables
  30. Don't eat out (yep, I get a point for that!)
  31. Eat right
  32. Keep up with food diary (part of my weight loss plan)
  33. Record reading minutes (for our library program)
  34. Work on XXXX (Christmas present for someone who may read this)
Today's specific list also includes 4 other items to read (books, sermons, etc), an item I need to fax, a grant application to fill out, refilling my laundry soap container with homemade soap, and doing a load of laundry (that's a 3 step listing - wash darks, dry darks, put darks away). And, it's still early. By the end of the day, I will have thought of more, or done some of the "Extras" and the list will probably be well over 50 items. (But first I have to end this ridiculously long post).

Saturdays are family days, days to get major projects accomplished, or days to go shopping - which is an ordeal of it's own as we have to drive a long ways to get to a town to shop in. Our own town has only one overpriced grocery store. The nearest Kmart is 77 miles away and the nearest Walmart is 100 miles in the other direction. Those of you who have ever been to Wyoming will understand this. Those who haven't will probably think I exaggerate. I don't. Sundays are reserved for church - morning and evening, and a quiet afternoon at home. I try to get some quality sewing time in in the afternoon while my 1 year old (and husband) naps. It's not all work and no fun. We love to go fishing and get out in nature, and visit with his parents who live here, which we often on weekends and the evenings when my husband gets done with work early enough.

So there you have it. I hope it will help someone. It sure made a difference for me.

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