Here we are.
Late spring, 2020, and the year isn’t going at all the way anyone planned.
If you’re not in a state with strict stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, you’re in a state wondering if and when the orders and guidelines will arrive – if ever.
If you’re approaching week five or six of stay-at-home orders, then you’re like millions of other people across the country. You’re trying to make it work. Maybe you’re cruising right along with the whole lockdown thing. Your kids are crushing virtual school, you can work from home, and everything is going just great – except for the fact your kids eat too much, which sends you to the store more than you’d like, but there’s no way to avoid it: you and your kids get hungry and eat every day, at least three times, and thinking of everything while you’re in the store never happens.
Inevitably, you forget something.
Unless, of course, you understand the power of lists.
Grocery lists give you the power to go to the store and get two weeks of groceries, without forgetting a single thing.
If you don’t know about grocery lists, you should try them.
But this article is about another kind of list. One that also has powers that some might consider magical:
The To-Do List.
If you have trouble keeping the family focused, on track, and accomplishing all their daily tasks, you need to learn about To-Do lists.
What is a To-Do List?
Those of you who’ve lived with these lists your entire lives may be shocked some people don’t use them. And you may be shocked we need to explain what a To-Do list is. Maybe we don’t need to explain, but we also don’t want to assume knowledge on the part of you, our reader.
Therefore, here’s a quick definition: a To-Do list is a series of tasks written down on paper (or on a device with a notes or word processing app) that need to be accomplished. The list might be for you, it might be for your spouse, it might be for your kids, or it might be for everyone in the house. Your list might specify times the tasks need to be accomplished, or it might not.
It all depends on you.
During COVID-19, these lists can create order from chaos.
If your days have all run into one another, no one in the house gets anything done, and everyone eats breakfast at four in the afternoon and dinner at midnight, it might be time to make a To-Do list. It won’t take long: all you have to do is sit down with paper and pen (or a device and your fingers) and make a list of things you want done in your house the next day.
Making Your List(s)
We advise doing this before you go to bed at night, after the kids are asleep, and after all your tasks are complete. Find your quiet spot and think about tomorrow. Think about what needs to happen for each member of your family, for you, and for your household. Then write those things down. You can use a numbered list or a bulleted list. The format doesn’t really matter. You can make as many lists as you like. We recommend a series of lists, divided as we indicate above: one each for every member of your household, one for the household in general, and one for you.
That gives you some work to do, but if your household is in scheduling disarray, your lists can save you.
Tailor each list to the specific family member. You may need to be very specific about the what, when, and how for some of your family members. For others, you can leave the details open-ended. You may need to hold some family members strictly accountable with regards to completing their tasks, while with others, you can be flexible.
It all depends on who the list is for.
Once you make your lists, you can make an event out of introducing them to your family: pass them out at the breakfast table and tell them each what you expect of them – and how they can use the list to meet your expectations.
You can check things off the list, together, as you go through your day. When everyone completes their lists, you can celebrate: the lists give you a tangible sense of shared accomplishment, wherein each family member contributes in their own way to the smooth functioning of the family as a whole.
At the end of the day, find your quiet spot again. Review the lists to remind yourself of what you accomplished. Then, think about tomorrow, and start on a new set of lists.
The simple power of the To-Do List will amaze you: we promise.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.