Freeing up my to-do list

I’m the queen of setting ridiculously high expectations for my day and then feeling like a total failure when I realize at 8pm that my goals might have been a little unrealistic. Sometimes I get the impression that all of my peers are accomplishing SO much, and I’m falling behind. I’m not doing enough! Must do more! Must be better! Must be Super Mom AND Super Writer and Super Wife!

How quickly resulting feelings of failure, disappointment, and stress spiral out of control.

For the last year I’ve been using a planner to keep up with my family’s schedule, manage to-do lists, and meal plan (I try, at least). I’d be kinda lost without it. I used to have a mind like a steel trap, but these days I tend to forget basics like my kids’ names and the fact that the mortgage is due on the 1st of the month. Things got a little mushy in there after the second baby.

I love to-do lists, maybe a little too much. There’s something I find satisfying about using up every line provided—as though somehow it affirms the fullness of my day as a stay-at-home mom. (Perhaps that’s a topic I’ll need to tackle another day.)

The thing is, like I said before, I tend to have unrealistic expectations for my day. I’m counting on my preschooler taking a 3-hour nap, the words I need to write flowing freely and easily, and no phone calls, cats getting sick, or texts interrupting me.

Guess how often it actually works that way?

I’ve found something that helps, and have been experimenting for the past month or so. I set flexible daily goals—this involves deciding to be okay when items get shuffled to another day or even the next week—but I also add, after the fact, anything I accomplish that wasn’t on the to-do list. And then I check it off of course, because we all know that’s the best part!

It’s been freeing. Now I’m able to acknowledge and appreciate the time and energy that go into the little things that seem too insignificant to make the to-do list, but matter nonetheless.

For example, a few things I’ve added lately: Mailed a card to a friend—check! Put together a puzzle with my kid—check! Laundry wasn’t on the list, but I threw in a load—check! Helped my other kid with her homework—check! You get the idea.


Instead of being discouraged by other people’s accomplishments, I’d much rather 1) cheer on my friends and peers, celebrating wins and encouraging each other through the failures; and 2) keep my eyes (and my to-do lists) focused on God, knowing that he keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on him and who trust him (Isaiah 26:3).

The truth is, we’re each uniquely equipped for both the number of tasks and the types of tasks God puts before us. Taking note of the unplanned or seemingly small accomplishments each day reminds me that all of it matters, and that sets me free to approach my day joyfully, with open hands and an open mind.

{I shared some of these thoughts earlier this week via The Drafting Desk, a monthly email newsletter for anyone wanting to trade in the pursuit of perfection for grace, joy, and freedom. Lindsey and I would love to have you join us! Learn more and subscribe here!}

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

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