THE STORIES  Erin Hultgrenn

Erin Hultgrenn

The Art of a “To Do” List

Raising children, running a household, maintaining a career, and keeping up with outside commitments can make us all feel like we are drowning some days, can’t it?

Take me, for instance — I’m on our church council, I sit on the board of directors for two local non-profits, and I help shuffle my four boys to soccer, piano, jujitsu, swim lessons, preschool, and what seems like a zillion birthday parties! Like so many of you, I sometimes feel like I am failing at keeping up with everything. I don’t claim to be an expert at much, but I do know how to manage a household of four energetic little boys while also keeping my home tidy and clean and making sure everyone arrives where they are supposed to be on time — and even 5 minutes early, lol! How do I do it? I have a secret weapon.

Studies have shown that people perform better when they write down what they need to do. “To do” lists are quite possibly my favorite organizational tool EVER. I have no idea where I would be in life if Post-its were never invented. I make lists for EVERYTHING.

I think I even have lists for my lists. You can find them on my kitchen counter, desk, bathroom mirror, or car steering wheel. On average, I make three lists a day. Gah! It’s a time honored tradition that is really beautiful in its simplicity — write down what you need to get done, do those things, then cross them off. Few things are more satisfying to me than pulling out my black Sharpie to check off the tasks I have accomplished for the day. I make lists for grocery shopping, household chores, errands, and appointment reminders.

You name it, you can put it on a list, and once you’re done — CROSS. IT. OFF.   

So how does one become a list maker? I personally suggest people start with weekly lists. A weekly list allows me to plan out my week, creating a manageable portion of tasks each day along with (most importantly) quiet time for myself — all the while knowing I will be able to accomplish everything I wanted to achieve that week.

As an example, if I have company coming for the weekend, on the Monday prior, I’ll make a list of household chores, meals I plan to make, and everything else that must be completed that week before my guests arrive; I set small, manageable tasks for each day. Writing things down in an orderly manner helps us to remain productive and achieve a sense of accomplishment. I know that everything that needs to be done before my guests’ arrival will be! And I didn’t have to panic 15 minutes before they knocked on the door that I still haven’t washed the bedding.   

Making these simple plans and lists to get things done can also help free us from anxiety.  Instead of feeling mentally scrambled, I can allow my mind to focus on better, calmer things I enjoy, while always keeping a record of things I need to remember.  

It’s important to note that lists should remain simple, but include pertinent details. Adding “redecorate living room” may be too daunting for a daily task, but “pick new wall paint color” for your daily “to do” is manageable. The next day, or even a week later, could be “purchase paint at paint store.” Making manageable tasks that you can achieve in the amount of time you have in each day is important. And by planning ahead and having everything written down, your worry about “when am I going to get it all done?!” diminishes.

Once they start making lists, most people will segue into other time management activities, such as using a calendar, creating a meal plan, a family budget/bill binder, etc — and it all starts with simply writing it down!  

Now that I’ve convinced you to become a list maker, I’ve created a fun download for you to get you started!

“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” – Isaiah 26:

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