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To-Do Lists 101: Getting the Most Out of Your Lists

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I've never been very good at making lists. When I have been able to convince myself to make a list, it was rare that I was able to follow it -- until I became a stay-at-home mom. I've found, these days, that without a to-do list, absolutely nothing gets done. I never know where to start. I'll clean the same room over and over because when you try to clean a house from top to bottom with toddlers running around, by the time you've finished, the entire place is dirty again. Cooking, cleaning, and making time for yourself all while being a full-time entertainment centre for your kids is a tough job. Sometimes a list can really help slow down the whirlwind. Here are some list tips from a person who doesn't do lists.

1) Make a list the night before. Timing is everything. If you make your list right before you go to bed, you'll feel more prepared for the morning and ready to go when you wake up.

2) Don't limit your list to jobs. As a parent, everything you do that doesn't involve immediate childcare is a success. If you use this philosophy when making your list, it won't be as scary to look at in the morning, and you won't feel so overwhelmed. Taking a shower is an accomplishment in my house, and if it's been a couple days, I will put shower on my list. I'll put trips on there like walk to the library. I'll even put stuff I do in my downtime on there. It gives my list the well-rounded look it deserves.

3) Use your downtime wisely. There are two reasons I put downtime activities on my list. The first being so that I actually do them and take some time to relax and enjoy myself. The second being so that I use that downtime wisely. If I have three activities I want to do during nap time, it's easier for me to stop playing on the Internet and start scrap-booking if both of those items are on the list. To be honest, much more time would be wasted surfing the unchanging Internet pages I visit if I didn't put other fun activities down to be scratched off.

4) Make the list a rolling list. You are not going to get everything you write down each night done everyday. If you try, you will only set yourself up for failure. If you don't get to some items, simply put them on the list for tomorrow. In this way, you give yourself a bit of choice each day as well. I try not to let an item stay on my list for more than three days, but, honestly, clean the bathroom can sit on there for up to a week before I can actually bring myself to do it.

5) Don't scratch off an item until you've done the job completely. One of my faults is my love of the half-job. I'll start cleaning the kitchen but get distracted and leave before I wash the cabinets and the floor. I'll do two loads of laundry, but forget the third in the washer. By not scratching these jobs off before I finish them completely, I remember to finish them the next day. And I'm more apt to finish them first because psychologically, I'm already halfway there, as opposed to only half-way done.

Maybe lists still aren't for you, but I know as one who has never made lists in her life that when I do follow this technique, I feel better about my day. I'm more organized, I get more done, and I see the variety in what would otherwise look like a day the same as yesterday the same as the day before.

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