We’ve all got one, whether it’s all ‘up there’ and updated mentally, scribbled on an old envelope, or in an app which you use religiously. It’s part of functioning as an adult, juggling work, home, kids and their social lives and so on.
For me, the hardest thing to accept about the to do list is that it NEVER ENDS. This is true of both my lists at home (the washing basket is constantly being refilled, the pots will need washing, meals will have to be planned and cooked) and my ‘teacher’ lists (when I reached the third A4 sheet on those lists, despair did sink in quite rapidly!) It’s about how we deal with the lists that determines the extent to which they stress us out.
I’ve been comsidering this a lot recently, as there have been days when I’ve almost resented having jobs to do, particularly whilst the children have been off school. Some days, my son has asked me to play with his toys with him and I’ve said “in a minute”, or “when I’ve put the washing away” and then the moment has passed, he no longer wants me to play Lego as he’s gone outside or asked for the TV to be on. That’s pretty sad really, because although the jobs have to be done, there are times when they aren’t the most important thing. (One thing I have tried is turning some jobs into a little game, such as getting them to help me put the washing away and then we can play once the job is done-the kids are pretty good at folding towels now!)
After my ponderings, I decided there were four main ways of dealing with the inevitable job list (actually there are 5, if you count paying someone else to do them, but that’s a luxury not many can afford!)
The ostrich approach
Burying your head in the sand and pretending there are no jobs is possibly not the most effective way to deal with the to do list. It works for a while, until you have no more mugs or plates, and no clean clothes for work. However, long term, it’s not ideal. Of course, there are some occasions where it comes in handy to just forget about jobs for a short time, for example planning the tea you’ll have after a family day out. Some days I’ll have prepped a slow cooker meal and switched it on before leaving, other times I’ll run out of time and they’ll have dippy egg and soldiers for tea. Either way, they get fed, so there’s no point me getting my knickers in a knot about chopping onions 5 minutes before we want to leave.
This is my go to method for dealing with the job list. I do the things that have to be done, the basics, first. Simple! But then sometimes there’s a job you’d like to get done before one of the essentials, for example (this always happens to me) when you want to fold the washing but you need to clean the floor before you put the clothes on it to sort into piles, and then you realise you also need the other basket that’s half full of dirty washing so you have to put a load into the machine and before you know it half an hour has passed and you still haven’t done the job you wanted to do!
When I was a full time teacher, I used to have a 1, 2 and 3 job list. 1s had to be done, as a matter of urgency. 2s needed to be done but not ASAP (and could possible be delegated), and 3s were a ‘would be nice if I get time’. It worked pretty well most of the time, but even with prioritising it is so easy to still feel bogged down by the sheer number of tasks. This is where you are in charge of what actually gets added to the list.
It’s so easy to add unnecessary tasks to a list, and make it look worse than it is. Does the loft really need totally reorganising on the same day as your child’s birthday party? Probably not (unless the party is in the loft!) Mr C often points out to me that I am making work for myself, and this is especially true with my crafty things. I like to make things look pretty, or add a home made touch, or find something on Pinterest at midnight the night before an event and feel that I ‘must’ make it. There are times when I have managed it, and times when I haven’t, but in the grand scheme of things it hasn’t made a bit of difference either way!
Juggling (or balls in a jar!)
When I was at university, one of our first lectures was on time management, the old tennis balls, golf balls, marbles and sand in a jar analogy about fitting in the bigger jobs and the little things will slot in between. This is another one I use a lot, for example folding washing, cleaning the kitchen sides or sorting paperwork whilst the tea is cooking-it’s amazing what you can do in half an hour with a spot of multitasking! At the time, this lecture had little impact on me, but 15 years on it makes perfect sense and I’m much better at seeing the size of jobs and organising them accordingly.
More of a ‘once in a while’ way of dealing with it, but I felt it needed a mention, in the hope that I’m not alone. Those days when you have a full on to do list and then something goes wrong, someone adds a job to the list you could have done without (the 3 year old redecorating the bathroom with toothpaste is a prime example), and you just fall apart because it feels like you cannot possibly do all of that unless you have time turner like Hermione in Harry Potter. These are the days where a cup of tea and maybe some cake are called for, and definitely days to re evaluate the job list and do some prioritising.
How do you deal with your to do list? Are you someone that manages to successfully wing it without writing anything down or planning, or do you plan super carefully so it all gets done? I can’t settle to ‘my’ relaxing things-craft and so on-if I haven’t done my jobs so I try to get them done as soon as I can. If I sit down after I’ve put the kids to bed that’s it, I’m done, so I don’t even pick up the TV remote until I’ve done my chores! I’m also making a conscious effort to embrace the job list (it’s more of an awkward hug than a loving one but I’m working on it). It’s about just getting on with it, and trying not to be grumpy about the jobs, they have to be done anyway so I’m going to try and find some joy in them. (Except pairing socks, there is no fun in that.)
I am aware that I have mentioned washing a lot in this post; there are two reasons for this. One is that I seem to spend more of my time doing that than any other chore. The other is that I am still bitter that there isn’t a laundry fairy. Also, I keep seeing memes on social media about there being extra people in the house judging by the washing pile, and I am almost certain they were written about my house.