Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Breaking Down the To Do List

Book of lists

Photo by pikaland, of a book about lists.

I’m a list maker.

Jason jokes that my lists have lists. My lists are definitely a source of humor among my friends. But it’s true that I do love lists. I’m a person who, if I don’t have goals written out, I lose track of what’s really important in my life.

I’ve also found that if I don’t break those goals down into smaller steps, I’ll never, ever achieve those goals.

I keep a spiral-bound notebook around (so that things can’t fall out). Or a 3-ringring binder, composition notebook, or whatever. I’m slowly working through a mountainous pile of notebooks that we have left over from when Jason went back to college. Anything on a loose page is tucked into the back. Here’s a list of my lists (ha!):

  • At Mom’s House: I have a list of things I want to accomplish (run three times, write 6 blog articles) as well as a list of projects I want to help her with (retirement paperwork, take a cat to the vet, install a printer, package and ship a broken appliance for a refund, etc.)
  • Summer Bucket List: This contains the fun things that we want to do this summer. It’s not a must-do list at all. We three (P is a little young to participate) sat down in May and brainstormed about all the fun things we’d like to do before the end of the summer. Due to the remodeling getting underway, We might not get to half of it, but it’s been wonderful to look at when we have a completely unscheduled day and instantly have great ideas.
  • Blog Posts: This one is a biggie. I add to it constantly, and it’s now actually on three pages. Hopefully this means I won’t run out of things to say anytime soon!
  • Projects: This is a list for all of the projects that aren’t time sensitive, but are on my radar. Things like frame and hang family photos in the kids’ bedroom, install the fax, sticker the carpet tiles together so the rug stops moving. I can cross “get to 25 blog posts” off my list!
  • Big Goals: Jason and I keep a list of big financial/family goals we’d like to accomplish, and we have it hung up in our bedroom where we see it all the time.
  • Priorities: These are the things that matter most to me. Everything else comes after these, and I try hard to make sure that most of what I do in a day lines up with my priorities. I’d never actually written these down until recently, and I find that it’s helped me focus much more.
  • Big Dreams: This is a personal list for all the things I’d like to do with my life. It’s fun to do, and I’ve found that as I age, certain things aren’t important to me anymore and come off, while other things become more important on this list.

When I’m home, I typically make out a quick list every evening of everything I’d like to accomplish the following day. I include things like shower, soak beans, freeze beans, exercise, read 2 books to the kids, set up sprinkler to play in, Amazon order–anything I really want to do. It helps me get it all off my mind before I go to bed, and also is a great opportunity for Jason to put in a request if he needs help with something.

In addition, there’s always a running grocery list attached to the meal plan that’s hung on the deep freezer in our kitchen.


Reading this, my system sounds daunting, but I’m a big believer in doing whatever works for you. Many people use apps, planners, or are better at internalizing this stuff than I am, but this is what works for me at this phase in my life.

A list of what my lists do for me:

  1. Help me be more intentional with my time. Sure, surfing the net is fun and the tupperware cabinet is exploding, but I see that I need to write a blog post today and to make bread. Writing and my family’s health are two of my priorities–neatness, not so much.
  2. Save me time and money. I know what I need from the grocery store and don’t forget to the hoisin sauce I need to make dinner. Forgetting the sauce would mean I run back out, spending extra money on gas, or order take out, definitely a less healthy option.
  3. Keep me from getting overwhelmed. Instead of “make refried beans”, I’ll put “soak beans” on today’s list, and tomorrow’s will have “start beans” and “jar and freeze beans” on the list.
  4. Give me a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to cross things off the list, and I’ve learned not to put too much on my daily list.
  5. Give Jason an opportunity to ask for help. Making this list each night (and it takes 5 minutes) almost always reminds him of something he wanted to ask/tell/show me, or of a task he needs help with, like having a key made for the contractor.



I’m curious to hear about others’ systems: Are you a list-maker, or do you like to wing it? And how do you keep track of the big goals you want to accomplish?