My to-do list and my wish list.

My to-do list and my wish list.

A month ago I was whining (let’s be honest) to Will about having too much to do and feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all.

Will said, write it all down. 

(A little you may need to know about our household yin/yang: he has project management experience; I am an INFP who needs managing even though I’ve come a long way. I frequently say “project manage me” like that’s a verb. It is NOT a verb, which one could read as an indication of how desperately I need help in this area.)

Usually when I put the swirling thoughts in my head down on paper it makes me feel much better. In my head, it feels unmanageable, but on paper, the list is short. And doable. Usually.

This list wasn’t short.

I showed it to Will, who said, Oh. And then: That explains a lot.

The section for work-related tasks was on the long side (lots of shiny fun projects in this season) but we were both most surprised at the section for normal life stuff. That list kept going and going and going. Even though we keep a schedule that feels pretty low-key compared to many of our peers, we do have four kids, and the upkeep on a family of six isn’t exactly minimal.

This time, seeing my list of current responsibilities set out on paper didn’t lead to any sort of epiphany or magical fix. But even though I didn’t like the way it looked on paper, it was still enormously helpful to see it on paper.

Having an actual written list of what’s going on in my life right now is helping Will and I (and, to a lesser extent, the kids) be realistic about life right now, and see how we might need to shift responsibilities around between the two of us, and to the kids, in this season.

A month later, it’s helping.

Also helping: I told all this to a friend recently—another woman who has a big family, and similarly big responsibilities right now—and she said Are you sure you made a to-do list? Because it sounds like what you might have is a wish list. 

Sure enough, when I looked back over my list (because you better believe I kept that list), there were a few things on it that weren’t essential right now. They were things I wanted to be doing, but not things I needed to be doing—at least not right now.

As we move forward, we’re striving to be realistic about what we want to do, and what we need to do. We’re shifting responsibilities around, and will continue to do so. We’re saying “no” a lot.

And while I’m still keeping a wish list, I’m being careful not to confuse it with my to-do list.

It’s hard, every day—but I’m learning.

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on your to-do list vs. your wish list, and if you’re likewise inclined to confuse the two. 

P.S. Two big-picture concepts that help me plan my days/weeks/months, and the fab four habits for a better life.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page


  1. Gosh, this gets so muddy for me in the age of knowing your personality type, number, strengths, etc because now I know that some of the stuff I don’t *have* to do are the things that keep me sane. So I have the hardest time decifering between what’s just a wish and what keeps me a healthy human.

  2. Erin says:

    I recently had an epiphany, not in regards ‘to do and wish lists’ but that feeling of being overwhelmed. My life is going to continue to be full for the foreseeable future, with 10 children that is a given. However amongst the ‘busyness of life’ we can find quiet, a peace. Currently I’m in town daily, ferrying children to various after school activities, I’ve taken to walking in that time period, taking my camera along, listening to podcasts (yours;-) and reading books. Those hours waiting; by the poolside, in the library, walking, waiting in the car I’ve come to treasure, they are the quiet within the busy.

  3. Lauren says:

    Thanks for making this distinction between to-do and wish list! I tend to be hard on myself at the end of the week if I feel like I haven’t crossed off enough on my to-do list. I’m going to start a wish list instead!

  4. Janene says:

    …what’s going on in my life right now is helping Will and ME — not Will and I. 🙂 This grammatical mistake is so prevalent and it kind of drives me crazy.

  5. Abbey says:

    I totally get it. I don’t write as many lists down on paper but I definitely do in my head. It’s hard to keep up with all of them. I’m such a non-planner in the way that I absolutely cannot make decisions without considering every single alternative and then I sometimes back out of them (if possible). I’m an infp too, so that explains a lot in my case. I am definitely good at confusing the two.

  6. I can’t keep up with a daily list, but yes – fellow INFP and I think I might need managed. I try to keep everything in my head, but when I start to panic my husband makes me write it down. And then I realize it’s 5 things and I can probably manage. I am pregnant with my 4th now, and I find I just don’t have the capacity to keep everything in my brain right now. I at least have to put things on my phone calendar. 😀

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.