Salute to Spouses Blog

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Secret to the school year hustle – make a list

Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted.

We are in week two of the school year and I can barely keep my eyes open. Our days have been a blur of back to school activities, packing lunches, (attempting) to make descent breakfasts, homework and a return to evening practices for every sport and activity imaginable.

And this is just what we have to do to manage our children’s school year. Any of us adults heading back to school this fall will have to add managing our own classroom studies and activities on top of the list.

It’s a lot. But there is a magic word to help: lists.

We have five children and two very busy, full-time careers. Lists are my BFF.

Each night I end my evening by reviewing the day’s to-do list and compiling one for tomorrow.

It allows me space to breathe, prioritize and give myself easy guidance to turn to when I’m feeling flustered. In our house, if a task doesn’t make the list, it simply doesn’t happen. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t add the phrases, “bath time” and “make snacks” to my list. Because I do.

And that’s what I love about lists.

When I sit by myself to write up the list I am able to think through how I hope tomorrow will go. Notice, I said hope, for plans change, often. It rains. Practice is cancelled. The school nurse calls. To the doc we go. The dog gets loose and the whole day is shot as you drive up and down the neighborhood calling his name.

My lists help manage that chaos. After I’ve triaged the unplanned events of the day, I can turn to my list to see what I’ve missed and what I can still salvage of my plan.

At the end of the day, I have a nice list to reference of items that didn’t get completed, and add those to tomorrow, or even another day. I include not just appointments, but what needs picked up at the store that day, what phone calls need made, what meals are on the menu and even whose laundry day it is in our house.

Turns out, making a list has mental health benefits as well. Psychology Today says making a list has the following benefits:

  1. Provide a positive psychological process whereby questions and confusions can be worked through. True purposes surface.
  2. Foster a capacity to select and prioritize. This is useful for an information-overload situation.
  3. Separate minutia from what matters, which is good for identity as well as achievement.
  4. Help determine the steps needed. That which resonates informs direction and plan.
  5. Combat avoidance. Taking abstract to concrete sets the stage for commitment and action. Especially if you add self-imposed deadlines.
  6. Organize and contain a sense of inner chaos, which can make your load feel more manageable.

I say making a list brings peace. At the end of the day I have a sense of achievement as I look at everything I can cross off the paper. And, I can fall asleep easier without being shaken awake, suddenly remembering something that has to be done. It’s already on my list.

So, grab a notepad and make your list. Meanwhile, I’m going to go cross writing this blog off of mine. 



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