List Making- Use It, Don’t Abuse It


Most professional organizers, life coaches, and therapists will tell you that making lists is the best way to both stay organized and a great way to empty your brain of everything you know you need to do. Many suggest keeping a notepad by the bed to quickly jot down thoughts that pop into your mind right as you lie your head down. Many now use IPhone notes or some such app, to accomplish the task of “idea catching.” Ask me if list-making has kept my life organized and manageable and on most day’s I’d say absolutely yes. But then there are days when I feel like my list is managing me. These are the days we must discuss here.

As a Mom– I need lists to remember what food to buy, what products to order from and what I need to tell the pediatrician at our next doctor’s appointment. As an entrepreneur, I need multiple lists to keep my writing, my events, and my meetings in line. But the problem occurs when I don’t know when not to look at my lists. When do I realize how tired I am and that I need to rest? When do I allow myself not to run an errand on my way to something fun so a moment is simply a moment of fun and not one of added responsibility? There comes a time when we realize that our lives feel heavier than they aught to- with too much to do and not enough time to do it. And maybe, just maybe, these are the moments we need to take a break from our never ending lists.


An anecdote from this past weekend: my dear friend Rhobin was hosting a 60th birthday party for his fiancée on the roof deck of their building. It was sunny and breezy- perfect for a party. My son went down for his nap and so did my husband (he happens to be very disciplined about putting his list away and taking a snooze). I found myself cleaning, organizing my desk and of course, referencing my notes for what should be accomplished during this “quiet time.” I began to feel my eyes get heavy and the first good move I made on this day was to lie down on the couch. It wasn’t easy to let myself do that. I didn’t sleep but I did rest and rose feeling some new spit and vinegar. But just as quickly as I had lie down, my IPhone was open to the notes section and staring back at me was a detailed grocery list for the week ahead.

Perfect, I thought to myself, I can hit Whole Foods and get the grocery shopping for the week done, have it delivered, all on my way to the rooftop birthday party. On one hand, fabulous use of time. On another hand, it’s Sunday and why in the world shouldn’t I just enjoy going to a party and not be focusing on my many To-Do Lists? I realized that I was becoming a little crazed and frankly, a little run by my To-Do’s. I don’t think this is the goal when life coaches suggest having organized lists- because the list isn’t meant to be your life. In that moment, I took a deep breath and made a decision: I decided to put the list away- for the entire day. And to let Sunday be Sunday. To let the party be the party. And to enjoy a day of pleasure. The list would be waiting for me on Monday and I would handle it then, refreshed and rejuvenated from having taken an afternoon off.

Living an organized life is very important as a Beyond Mom-it’s the only way we can make the juggle work. But it’s equally as important that we know when to stop the wheels in our minds from turning and give ourselves permission to stop “getting things done.” The relief from checking things off the list quickly turns to resentment and exhaustion and that’s the direction none of us want to turn toward.

What are the moments that you feel the need for a little rest or dare I suggest a little fun? Are those the moments in particular that you need to put the list down and just be with yourself or your loved ones? Can you cultivate a little more balance between your fast-paced organized life and the slowed down pleasure of a friend’s party on a Sunday afternoon?