I want to issue you a challenge.
Are you like me? Do you ever have those nights when you go to bed, and as soon as your head hits the pillow, all you can think about is what you didn’t get done that day? This happens to me often. The night before, I sit up envisioning all the things I’ll get done the next day and all that I will finally accomplish. Then the next day comes, life happens, I mostly only accomplish that which is needed for our basic survival, and I go to bed feeling discouraged again. So I stay awake thinking about all the things I should have gotten done and all the things I hope maybe I can get done the next day.
Have you heard that Barenaked Ladies song, “Who Needs Sleep?” There’s a part that says, “My mind is racing filled with lists of things I’ve done and things I’ve missed.” That song runs through my head often.
Many nights, I sit up, turn on the lamp, and make a to-do list. Maybe if I write things down, I can get them out of my head and get some sleep, right? Wrong! My to-do lists are a mile long. They include all the things I need to do such as clean the bathrooms and finally clean out the kids’ closet. But they also include all the things I wish I had time to do, such as make curtains for the dining room, read more books, actually post something on my blog, or try my hand at sewing skirts for the girls. (That part of the list goes on and on and on.) So obviously, I don’t stand a chance at even making a dent in that list, and the discouraging cycle continues.
I know there must be some of you out there who feel the same way. Maybe you don’t let it keep you up in the night like I do, but you probably have goals. Maybe you want to clean your bathrooms once a week. Maybe you want to keep your kitchen counter dirty-dish free. Maybe you want to find time to exercise or enjoy your favorite hobby more. I know I can’t be completely alone in this because I’ve heard my friends talk about how they feel the same discouragement.
Now, I can’t say that I have found a way to multiply your time so you can be supermom, an amazing housekeeper, and perfect your talents in several different areas all at the same time (if anyone HAS figured this out, please let me in on the secret). But I have found something that helps me to not feel so discouraged, and I hope it can help you, too.
Forget the to-do list!! Or if you just can’t stand to do that, keep it short and realistic for your day. But most importantly, start an accomplishment list. I started doing this at the beginning of the year, and I felt the change immediately. When I went to bed, I would pull out a little pad of paper and jot down anything that felt like a chore I had done. If I loaded the dishwasher, I wrote it down. I wrote down anything I wanted to give myself credit for, such as:
- washing laundry
- putting laundry away
- picking up the family room
- running errands
- cleaning out closets
The nice thing about this is that you answer to no one but yourself. If you were having a particularly difficult day and it felt like a chore just to get out of bed but you did it anyway, write it down! I write down things that work toward goals, such as spending more time focused on my kids, reading more books, reading scriptures, or making handmade items. I’ve written down things as minor as:
- got dressed before noon
- put away Christmas stockings/nativity (that was Jan 21st! Ha!)
- made dinner
- read stories and scriptures to the girls
- put away groceries
- shaved my legs!
- ironed fabric for a project
- posted to blog
- had Family Home Evening
- stopped snacking by 10pm
- in bed by 11:30 (these last two were giving myself credit for baby steps while recognizing that I needed to eventually raise the bar)
Basically, it’s all about giving yourself a little credit. I think that as women, we can be really hard on ourselves. This is a way to end the day on a good note. It has helped me not to sweat the small stuff and give myself a pat on the back for all the day-to-day things that I accomplish that might not even feel like accomplishments anymore because they are so routine. I go to bed realizing I’m not lazy, I don’t sit around and do nothing all day. So if I don’t manage to do everything, that’s okay, too.
My to-do lists have gotten much more realistic by doing this also. After I write down everything I did get done, once in a while, if there is something really pressing in my mind, I will write down 1 or 2 things I would really like to get done the next day. It feels so good when I can cross off everything because I didn’t let my expectations get too high. And if I didn’t get my to-do list done, I still have at least 10 other things I was able to accomplish instead. Plus, it’s a form of motivation to use my time more wisely. I know that if I sit and browse the internet rather than emptying the dishwasher, I’ll have one less thing I can write down at the end of the day.
I call it my accomplishment journal, but I don’t let it turn into another source of guilt. I have never told myself, “aw, man! I haven’t kept up with my accomplishment journal.” That would be counter-productive. I do it when I think I need it. I kept up with it for a while in January, and then I took a break. Now I’m starting to feel like I should go back to it for a while because I’m feeling overwhelmed again. My due date for this baby is looming, and I know how quickly a pregnancy can fly by. There is much I want to get done before baby arrives.
So here’s where the challenge comes in. You know, the challenge I mentioned before I went into all my blathering? I want you to join me. Try keeping an accomplishment journal for a week and see if it helps you. Remember that if you miss a night, that’s okay. It’s not about the guilt! But give it a try and see if it helps you feel better about the things you get done during your week and less discouraged about what you don’t.
I’d love to hear what you think. Maybe you’ll find you didn’t really need it because you were already realistic in your expectations for yourself. Maybe it will motivate you to get more done. I hope it will encourage you the way it has me.
Will you try it? Do you do something else to help yourself see your accomplishments? How do you keep up with your to-do lists and still fight discouragement? You’re always welcome here. Let’s chat!