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.