a) identify an interpersonal emergency requiring my urgent attention
b) conduct in depth research to decide which book to read next
c) sort the Tupperware
d) all of the above
When there's so much to do, sometimes it's hard to know where to even start. What I really need is direction, pre-sorted options, and a sequence to follow. It never fails to amaze me how much I get done when I just. make. a list.
Weekly Standards ListWeekly Standards are the things I do every week: make a menu plan and grocery list, grocery shop, prepare meals, oversee bill payments and bank accounts, lesson plans, grading, teaching and tutoring, laundry, housekeeping, etc. Although more than 75% of my time is spent doing these things, I tend to minimize how much time they take, but ironically, it's completing the other things on my to-do list that makes me feel productive. When I finally acknowledged that the Weekly Standards take up more than three-quarters of my days and are absolutely essential to running a family and homeschool, two things happened: I stopped feeling like I wasn't ever getting anything done, and I had a more grace-filled attitude about how long it took me to knock things off my to-do list. Even though Weekly Standards are repeated tasks, these things are important!
Weekly Task ListThe Weekly Task list includes everything I need to get done in the coming week. Ideally this list is made on Sunday evening, but sometimes it's Monday morning or even Wednesday afternoon when I finally come up for air and grab and pen and paper to organize myself. This master list helps give me a bird's eye view of what I'm trying to accomplish before the end of the week in addition to the Weekly Standards.
Daily Task ListI make the Daily Task List each morning, and it includes both Weekly Standard and Weekly Task list items. Generally, Weekly Standard tasks are done on the same day of the week each week (like Tuesdays are lesson plan days) and they go on the daily task list first, so I can project how much time I'll have left to allot toward tasks and projects from the Weekly Task List.
Daily ScheduleWe have a daily schedule, but sometimes we use it as a sequence of events if we get started later than normal (if earlier than normal happens, the world has pretty much stopped spinning). Having a schedule helps everyone know what they (and everyone else) are supposed to be doing. and it lends a sense of general control to the atmosphere along with some accountability.
But when I feel extremely overwhelmed, my best sanity saver is to plot out exactly what I will do all day long in 30 minute increments. I set my priorities, pick my tasks and plug them into my schedule. That way, when my head starts to swirl with the enormity of it all, I can tell myself to calm down, because I know if I'm following my list, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This keeps me focused and stops me from freaking myself out. After all, there's not time to think about how much there is to do if you're busy doing things!
How about you? Are you a list maker, or do lists make you feel constrained? How do you maintain your sanity when there's too much to do?