Image: Sean MacEntee
Are you a list maker? I know I am. In fact it’s an essential part of my day and I can’t begin until I’ve made the list for the day. It started back when I worked full time for an IT company and things were very hectic. I had so much to do I didn’t know where to start and so I began by making lists. Little did I know that once the children came along and my memory wasn’t what it used to be that making lists would be an essential part of my day. Now I keep a notepad to hand at all times and add to the list whenever I remember something, just to ensure I don’t forget it.
Over the years my list making has advanced a great deal. I love my technology so I started using my phone to keep a track of all my jobs but somehow that didn’t quite work for me and I reverted to the old fashioned pen and paper. Whilst running my own business as a baby signing teacher and having very young children at the same time, I found the mounting list of jobs overwhelming. Luckily it was around this time that I went to a business conference and heard the wonderful Allison Mitchell speak about her book, Time Management for Manic Mums. She was exactly what I needed at that time, and so I bought the book, read it cover to cover, absorbing every detail. Funny, realistic and innovative her ideas on how to find extra time in the day were spot on. Some of them are quite simple and obvious I guess, like always watch your favourite programmes on playback allowing you to skip the adverts and you’ll easily find an extra 15 minutes in the hour. The general premise was how you could make an extra hour in every day just by applying some of her tried and tested suggestions.
The one thing that really appealed to me was how to tackle that ‘to do’ list, and it’s still an approach I use today.
How to Make a To Do List:
Firstly write down EVERYTHING that you need or want to do. It can be items such as cleaning the oven or posting a letter through to learn a new language or decorate the house. Whatever it is you’ve need or have been wanting to do, write it down on one long list.
Secondly, start allocating the smaller jobs in a diary or in diary format across the next week. Some things will have deadlines or need to be done on a certain day so make sure you give plenty of time to do them.
Next, take the larger jobs like learning a new language and start to break them down into smaller jobs. The first item on this might be to find a suitable class for example so add an entry to ‘search the internet for a local Spanish class’. Allocate a day and time to do this and ensure you stick to it. A week later you might add ‘Call Spanish class leader and book first session’. The point is splitting down a larger task into smaller tasks and allocating time to do them means you won’t procrastinate over it any longer and will begin to take action.
Once you’ve cleared that orignal large list and allocated a day and time to all the jobs you can start to look at your daily to do list. Each day, Allison says you should tackle the ‘blueberries’. These are the jobs that are quick and short and easily achieved. Tackle these first and cross them off your list. If you don’t do them it’s likely they will become larger more ominous ‘apples’ – jobs that are now so pressing you feel pressure and stress because you haven’t done them. It’s possible to avoid this by tackling everything when it’s a blueberry. That way you can hopefully minimise the ‘apples’ and get things done on time.
I love this approach and it helps me deal with my to do list enormously. My current to do list is enormous too! It ranges from things like hanging up the washing, to finding a mexican outfit for Miss E, to sorting out things like a will, a pension and our life insurance. Life took a drastic turn earlier this year when my husband found himself out of work and now he’s Self Employed too all of these ‘bigger’ jobs seem to have become more important.
Life insurance in particular is something we’ve agonised and procrastinated over but really need to sort out. Aviva has been looking at how we tackle sorting this and have a guide that helps you focus on its importance for the family. We really need to do this and soon. It’s becoming an ‘APPLE’!
How about you? How do you tackle your to do list?
This is an entry into the Mumsnet Blogger competition