The Reverse To Do List: How to relax when you just can’t do it all.
Are you stressed at the day’s end by all that remains undone on your to do list? I get it. To do lists can seem never ending. We start the day with plans to do it all, and end the day disheartened to see many (or most) of the items left undone, while all of the additional things waiting to be done tomorrow clamor for our attention.
No matter what walk of life you’re in, to do lists have a way of becoming overwhelming. When I left my full time teaching job to be a stay at home mom, I thought I’d have ample time to do everything around the house, while raising my daughter and blogging. The reality is, my to do list is every bit as long now as it was when I was working full time. A typical to do list for me looks something like this:
And of course, that doesn’t include all of the tasks that need to be done but don’t make it to the list. Shower, brush teeth, get G dressed, wash her face, brush her teeth, diaper changes, bath for G, bed time routine, feed the dogs… Enter, the Reverse To Do List: A strategy for ending the day feeling thankful, rather than overwhelmed and discouraged. So how does it work?
How the Reverse To Do List Works:
- Make a list of everything you accomplished that day. Stop giving your energy to the things that were left undone. They will still be there tomorrow and that’s okay. Instead, focus on what you did accomplish, including unplanned activities that weren’t on your list, like that last minute errand to buy more milk.
- Focus on each item you achieved individually, feeling thankful for each one. I like to thank God each thing I accomplished and focus on what a good day it was, instead of focusing on the moments that didn’t go my way. Yes, you may be tempted to think that you didn’t accomplish enough because you didn’t do it all, but this is the time to cut yourself some slack and focus on all the ways you were productive today. For example, instead of feeling frustrated that I didn’t get a chance to deep clean the bathrooms today, I may think about how much fun G and I had playing outside in the front yard together instead.
- Give yourself permission to roll things over to the next day’s to do list, or eliminate them completely. If it’s something that doesn’t have to be done, and your to do list for the week is already jam packed, remove it from your list! Do I really have to Windex the windows this week, or is that something that can wait?
- Don’t pressure yourself to add “Writing a Reverse to Do List” to your actual to do list. You don’t have to physically make a reverse to do list. I often review my reverse to do list mentally, usually in my quiet time with God in the evening, a time for meditation and prayer, or even as I’m falling asleep at night. Remember, this is about decreasing stress, not adding to it.
Do you have any helpful strategies for decreasing stress?