Giving Up On Good: Letting go of the to-do list

*I linked up today with Hayley (The Tiny Twig) and Jessi (Naptime Diaries) for their weekly series called Giving Up On Good. This series asks us to share the good things that we can let go of with the intention of taking care of the things that really matter to us. If you blog, I encourage you to write and link up, too.

I am a task master. I love making to-do lists. I like to get things done and sometimes I add things to my list just so I can get more things accomplished.

Every day, my to-do list looks a little bit like this…

Get dressed.

Put on makeup.

Dress kids.

Take Hudson to school.


Shower? Maybe? Only if there’s extra time.

Play with kids.

Respond to emails.

Devotional and daily Bible reading assignment.

Read for fun. But read at least two chapters.

Do some laundry.

Do the dishes.

Prepare supper.

Make sure the dogs have been taken care of.

Feed kids.

Bathe kids.



So some of these things are part of a mental to-do list. I don’t really have “sleep” on my list. I also don’t have anything about sitting and have good conversation with my kids and husband on my list. But those are important parts to my day.

I also really enjoy the unexpected phone call that lasts 45 minutes, but you don’t regret a single minute that you spent chatting with a great friend.

Some of the items on my list are non-negotiable. I wake up early to exercise. I take Hayes out on my runs every day when Hudson is at school. I blog either early in the morning or late at night.

My quiet time is non-negotiable. I really need to have dinner for my family every night, but leftovers are absolutely okay. Showers are great, but so what if I only get one every other day? Or every third day? (Promise you won’t stop reading my blog just because I said that?)

Sometimes I think the list keeps me on track. But other times I think the list weighs me down. The list reminds me what I haven’t done. The list reminds me that I’m not moving fast enough to keep up.

The list reminds me that there are only 10 minutes left in nap time and I’m not even close to getting it all done.

And this summer, when Hudson is out of school, I have an amazing opportunity. I get to have a “summer” with my kids. I’m not giving myself the summer “off.” But I am giving up on the to-do list.

I will make a point every single day to take some time to do something for myself. Maybe I’ll read during nap time. Maybe I’ll blog during nap time if I choose not to wake up early. But I refuse to run around all summer like a chicken with my head cut off trying to put a little check mark next to every item on my list. So I’m getting rid of the list.

Things will be forgotten. Balls will be dropped. I will most definitely be disappointed at times that I forgot something or that we ate sandwiches for supper because we stayed too late at the zoo and there wasn’t time to cook supper.

And I’m giving myself a pass to not have every single thing on my list done.

Here’s the deal with my lists. I put the responsibilities on the same list as the “want to” items. And then I get upset when I see that some of my fun items didn’t happen. But those are the things that keep me sane. But laundry also has to get done. Our house has to run and I need to set an example of responsibility for my kids.

But I also want them to remember that I wanted to have fun with them and play with them. I wanted to sit on the floor and play card games on rainy days and I wanted to run through sprinklers when we’re out with the stroller on a hot day.

So this summer I’m giving up on the to do list and focusing on the happy.

What are you giving up on? Are you a slave to the to do list?

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  1. says

    It’s refreshing to know that someone who is so put together may not get to shower every day. I’d look at you on the outside and be completely envious not realizing that you’re just like the rest of us.

  2. Serah says

    This summer I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter! I realized how much time I waste checking both and that’s time taken away from my boys, or my husband, or reading something on actual paper. 🙂 So the day school gets out, I’m shutting them off until August. I’m really excited!

  3. says

    My husband runs a water park – which means summers for us mainly consist of me and the three kids! I have to give myself permission (basically not to feel guilty) if we do fun things without Daddy!

    But I also need to know your tips for your hair on that third day without a shower! It always seems to look amazing!

  4. Christina Mitchell says

    Your honesty is always refreshing. You always keep it real! I think you are my sista from another mutha lol! I am an African American who reads your blog daily and no matter the cultural background we are all more alike than we are different. Thanks for a good start to my day with three babes at home! Much luv my sista

  5. says

    I don’t make to-do lists because they completely overwhelm me and drive me crazy. But unfortunately that means never doing what I need to do. I’m in a depression right now and can’t seem to get it together. But I’m hoping with med changes I can start making lists without them overwhelming me to the point of paralysis.

    I think it’s great you get a summer with your boys!

  6. says

    The best advice my mother ever gave me was this: “Your children will never remember all the loads of laundry you did, or how many times you swept the floor, or that the house was clean every morning when they woke up. What they will remember is how often you took the time to play, imagine, create and laugh with them. Those are memories that are worth keeping.” I love that. As an adult it is so hard to remember that advice…because to us we think of the “big things” in life. But we have to remember that to our kids, the little things are the big things too. 🙂

  7. says

    I’m a teacher so I become a full-time mom and housewife during the summer. It’s definitely still working (it’s not easy and some days I think are going to last forever and I greatly admire stay-at-home moms), but I have to say I enjoy it a whole lot more than working full-time for someone else. But I’ve also decided to make sure that I take at least one day a week to relax. I’ve got a to-do summer list a mile and a half long, but I also want to just enjoy the summer. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Britt says

    I am totally a slave to the to do list and I’m so busy making sure I do every single thing that at the end of the day after bedtime routine when I’m just sitting watching tv with my husband I get scared that I didn’t include enough play time with my baby and that makes me sad but the long list of chores I must complete and check off every day have to get done. I try to include my boy in making dinner even though he can only watch and not help and other small chores but there is never enough time in the day and no one in my family gets how I’m so busy since “I stay home and do nothing all day “

  9. says

    i’m not much of a to-do-lister – but i do tend to get overwhelmed sometimes with all that comes with being a wife and mommy. so glad i’m not alone! i’m looking forward to summer with no alarm clocks and lots of fun in the sun!

  10. says

    This is a great post! I, too, am a to-do lister. I have my weekly to-do list, plus a list of goals I want to accomplish each month. (Lately, these goals have been migrating from month to month.) I totally understand how you sometimes feel that your list weighs you down. I need to give up the guilt of wanting to get everything done before I take time for me. It’s tough because sometimes I just want to sit and flip through a magazine or read a book or know I should spend my quiet time with God, but instead of doing those things, I work to get everything else done. By then, it’s too late. I think I need to write about this to hold myself accountable!

  11. says

    I maintain that it’s really bad and drying to your skin to shower every day. I also only wash my hair twice a week. I promise I don’t smell. 😉

  12. step moMster says

    good for you not showering! lol! i LOVE it. thank you for keepin’ it real – as always 🙂

    girrrrrl!!! i literally just finished creating my household routine list (inspired by your home organization notebook). i laminated it and use dry erase markers to check off my morning, evening and weekly tasks. i LOVE it and things are running so much more smoothly around the house. everyone seems happier. it has worked so well that i recently made one for my personal care – it sounds crazy, but i got so busy getting the house in order that i ran out of time to get myself together each day before heading out. it was getting me down. now i remember to put on sunscreen, put on perfume, take my vitamins and take my contacts out at night…stuff like that. i feel better and look cuter each day (as evidenced by my recent “erin outfit”).

    i’m a prolific list maker. fortunately, lists have only benefitted my life. to wit:

    (1) lists help me not to worry. with so many balls in the air, i tend to forget or worry that i’ll forget something. if i put the task on a list (i’m the queen of wipping out my phone and adding an item to the various virtual lists i have going), then i can forget about it and FOCUS on whatever i’m doing at the moment.

    (2) i’m also super hard on myself and lists help me manage that. on days when i *feel* like i’ve haven’t been productive, looking over my list reminds me of all that i have accomplished.

    (3) lists also help me tackle overwhelming tasks. if i break the task down into steps and list those steps, big projects seem so much more doable. also, when i see just how many steps are involved (and that is IS a big job), i feel better for having procrastinated or feeling overwhelmed.

    (4) when i feel like i’m doing too much and am out of sorts, i stop and make a list of “must”, “want” and “should do” items for the day. i do only the bare minimum that i HAVE to (to survive or not get fired…lol!) and then fill the rest of my day with “want” items. any “should” items i happen to accomplish are considered extra credit. i do that for as many days as it takes to feel more balanced.

    (5) i think one of the biggest benefits (for me) is that if i need to step way from your routines for a few days, things don’t fall apart – because i’ve been on top of it. sheets and towels were washed a week ago…not months ago, you know?

    all that said, i got a mother’s day card from my new SIL. she commended me on doing such a good job loving and caring for my stepdaughter. she closed with a message that really resonated with me. it said “enjoy (stepdaugher’s name) – we do!” . it made me remember to relax and continue to put having fun and bonding with her at the top of the list sometimes…as well as making sure she has clean clothes, supplies for homework, food she likes in the house and says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. i commend you for choosing to focus on the here and now with your precious boys.

    with that – i’m going to go change the laundry (one of my chores for today) and clean the car (my extra credit)….since i already went to target this morning and got some pretty new summer clothes. FIRST 🙂

  13. step moMster says

    i’m giggling at myself because i just noticed that i chose to LIST the benefits of lists. lol!

  14. Kara says

    Oh Erin, I love this! And I have something that you just have to read. Now, I’ve commented for quite a while, so if I say the word Mormon will you promise not to run away? I know I’ve commented before about scriptures and different things, so you know I’m Christian, but I probably haven’t mentioned before that I’m Mormon. I know that our church doesn’t have the best reputation among other Christian churches, so I hope you won’t hold it against me. 🙂 But there is something that I know you would just love if you read it, so if it doesn’t scare you just because it came from a Mormon conference, then check this out:

    Honestly, I completely understood what you were posting about today just from reading the title, because it’s the exact philosophy discussed by one of the leaders of our church at one of our conferences a couple of years ago. It’s a talk that’s come to be referred to simply as Good Better Best, and it’s one of my favorite talks I’ve ever heard. I know you’ll love it too. If you read it (or watch it or listen to it, there are different options when you click on that page), I’d love to hear what you think!


  15. says

    Fact: I put things on my to do list I have already done (or are givens) just so I can see a check mark and buoy my spirits. I love a list, but the longer the list, the higher my anxiety level. Gotta help myself out however I can!

  16. says

    Erin this is fantastic! Sometimes I know a to-do list will only add more stress instead of helping me get through everything. What helps me is for my mid-day to-do lists is to put something on there I’ve already done or am going to do, the inevitable! That feeling of accomplishment when you get that “free” cross off motivates me to keep going!

  17. says

    I love lists!! I cannot function on a daily basis without a list. I have a “to-do” notebook and each day I write out a list of chores and errands that I need to do. Though I consider these true “to-do” items, not anything that is part of my regular routine (getting dressed/makeup/workout/breathe, etc). No matter how crazy my day is, I try to cross of more items than I add to it – although that rarely happens 🙂 Whatever I don’t cross of I carry over to the next day. I’ve done this for so long that it doesn’t stress me out, but has become an absolute necessity so that when I have down time I know what really needs to be done. I have a similar list at work with everything I need to get done that day/week/month. On top of that, my husband and I keep all kinds of lists – grocery list, Target list, restaurants we want to go to, places we want to visit, Atlanta bucket list, and so on. You can just call me list-crazy!

  18. says

    I am a lover of lists. But I’ve also been known to put “done” things on my to-do list. Some activities don’t fit on the list, but your day is filled with them nonetheless. Very encouraging post. Keep making time for the important things.

  19. says

    I make to-do lists, but not like this. LOL Things that are going to happen whether I schedule them or not, like shower, don’t make the list. I use my to-do lists to keep track of tasks that I don’t want to do, or might forget to do…like take car to get the oil changed, mow the lawn, etc. Go easy on yourself, only add things to the list that really need to be there so you don’t stress out.


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