What do productive parents know that you don’t? Do you find your daily to-do list constantly shoved aside, its items glaringly not crossed off? Do you feel guilty about adding things to the list when you know you’re never going to get them done? Here’s how to change your thinking — and start crossing things off that list.
Start off right
While many productivity experts agree that tackling your “worst” task first thing in the morning can lead to a more productive day overall, you also want to set yourself up for success. So make the first item on your list something small — with a time limit.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-outside-the-home mom, a nice way to start off your list is with a 10-minute kitchen cleanup. You’ll be truly surprised at how much you can do in 10 minutes, and you’ll find that the clean kitchen that greets you when you walk in is a great reward. Set the microwave timer for 10 minutes, and see what gets done.
Another way you can help yourself succeed: you can make a conscious choice to start your to-do list only after your kids are out of the house/you’ve had your coffee/your spouse returns from work. The idea is, you know what you need to make things work, so go with that.
It’s important to have two kinds of limits on your to-do list. The first is to limit the amount of time you’ll spend on a task. Find the unit of time that works for you, whether that’s 15 minutes or an hour, and schedule that block of time.
Equally important, though, is to set limits on the number of items you put on your list for the day. Three to five items is a great guideline. If you can get that many tasks done during the day, you’re in great shape. If you’re thinking that sounds like far too little to do, you should feel free to add more tasks — after you complete the first five.
Reward your achievements
Rather than writing your list on the back of whatever scrap paper happens to be handy, consider splurging on a 99-cent spiral notepad. You can make a new list each day, and you can flip through the pad to see how much you’ve accomplished. And yes, it is an accomplishment if you eat breakfast, unload the dishwasher, and put away the laundry. These things don’t do themselves.
Take the time to acknowledge the things you’ve done, even if you’re inclined to dismiss them. When you have a new baby or young children at home, just getting dressed is a big deal. Even as your kids get older, you’re still doing an enormous amount for them every day, and fitting your own things in takes some doing.
Start each day fresh
A new day deserves a new to-do list. Even if you didn’t get a single thing done yesterday, write a new list. Maybe someone else took out the trash or walked the dog, or maybe you decided it wasn’t worth the effort it would take to redo the guest bathroom by yourself — whatever. Make a new list, and decide what deserves to be on it.
Keep at your lists, and it won’t be long before you’re saying “Ta-da!” every day.