Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Power of a List

Most people who know me know organization is one of my strengths.  I'm Type A through and through (excepting my type O- blood).  So it's no secret I like lists. 

I have my weekly action plan/to-do list.  I sit down on Sunday afternoons and plan meals, check my work and Jacob's calendars, and figure out what I'll get done each day toward my non-work responsibilities/ projects.  I love this system because it focuses me during my small chunks of free time each day.

I use a Word document to plan my work time.  It's very low-tech.  In the word document is a simple two row, five column table for each week.  When I have a project, I backwards plan the steps dropping actions on days I work.  When I leave a meeting, I add in any action steps.  I work hard, but if I don't finish everything on Monday, I move it to the next day.  When I'm really on top of it, I go into the document (which is always open on my computer) at night and order the items on the next day so that I'm maximally efficient in my limited work time.

And then last Christmas, I asked for this wall calendar.  Jacob couldn't wrap his mind around why I needed a wall calendar when I had a weekly desk calendar and a Google calendar.  He, a big-picture, yellow/blue personality, should have at least appreciated how this gives me a visual, high-level look of everything going on, even if he doesn't share my "in the details", green nature.  This calendar is mainly just something I reference to get a sense of where we are at in the month, how I remember if I've sent our babysitter an electronic check, and where it's easy to combine Jacob's and my evening commitments.  Jack likes it because he erases it each month and helps me put the magnet letters at the top.

I write all of this to say that even as organized as I like to be, I hadn't realized how helpful one simple list could be to my parenting.

I picked up the habit of writing "daily pages" from The Artist's Way for Parents.  The author suggests filling three pages each morning as a way to connect with your inner creativity, organize your thoughts, as an outlet, etc.  Morning didn't work for me, but most nights now I open up a simple notebook and just deposit thoughts.  This has been really powerful for me not as a journal but as a way to identify if anything's bothering me and then to make a plan to do something about it.  For example, one night I was feeling like I wasn't spending quality time with Cora in the way that I've always done with Jack.  Obviously Jack had a lot of 1:1 time with me before Cora, but he's still getting more attention as he's the older child and has more specific needs. 

I wrote "CORA" in big letters.  I'd already been defaulting to making to-do lists in my pages, so I decided to make a plan for how I was going to spend time with Cora the next day.  It took me about 30 seconds to come up with a few things I knew Cora would like (walking around the block just the two of us, reading books, singing songs) and I immediately felt more at peace because I had a plan. 

I've done this countless times since.  If I'm overwhelmed by a busy day looming, I just map it out and I feel more relaxed seeing how it will go.  If I feel burnt out on how I'm spending my time with my kids, I brainstorm some ideas the night before and then I have fresh energy the next day.

A list can make you so much more intentional in how you use the precious time of each day.

1 comment:

Annie said...

genuis ideas! I love the wall calendar.