“I feel like I am failing at everything!”
Ever yelled that one into the big open sky? Yep – me, too. Only about 10,000 times.
It’s so easy to see the “epic fails” of my own situation. The late arrival at the doctor’s office, the forgotten birthday party I RSVP’d to attend, and what about the meat I put in the oven to pre-cook? It was WELL past done when I pulled it out at 2AM after waking to the smell of chicken.
Right now, we can’t even ride our bikes because I put the bicycle tire pump in a really special place so we could always find it… When we look there in that special place…. after I remember it… Oh, mercy!
Oddly enough, one of the most frustrating things is when my husband comes home and asks, “What’d you do today?”
Now, this is a completely innocent question. He’s honestly curious to hear what my day was like – not checking up on me to be sure I’ve been productive. But this is not where my mind goes.
“I’ve been working SO hard, but I have NOTHING to show for it!” (Cue the sobbing.)
I like to get things done – to feel productive. Because of that, I am a list maker. I have lists on notepads, backs of envelopes, in emails to myself – I like lists. It helps get all the tasks out of my head and onto paper. I can look at my list, pick which things I aim to accomplish for the day, and then experience the joy of crossing them off when they’re completed. It’s delightful!
But there’s one problem. Most of what I do in a day isn’t on that list. It’s not even list-worthy! It’s just normal, day-to-day things that aren’t special enough to make the list. Honestly, when was the last time you wrote, “Keep the kids alive” or “Feed the brood lunch” on your To-Do list?
Back to my husband’s question: He asks, “What’d you do today?” and I sob loudly, while spouting out my itinerary for the last 10 hours that consisted mainly of shuttling children and answering questions – the same questions – several times over.
“See? You did a lot today already!”
Wait a minute – he’s right! It may not have been on the To-Do list, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t matter! So, I’ve started the practice of making a new kind of list: A Did-Do list.
Now, at the end of those days when I am feeling unaccomplished and overwhelmed by the magnitude of what wasn’t crossed off my To-Do list, I sit down and make out my Did-Do list. These are all the things I spent my time doing that wouldn’t have gotten done if I hadn’t chosen to do them. Here are some examples:
Fed kids breakfast
Drove kids to school
Put a load of wash in
Wiped off the table and counters
Sorted the mail
Answered 3 emails
Took a shower
Picked kids up from school
Fed kids snack
Read 4 books to kid #4
Listened to kid #3 tell stories about her day
Looked for lost homework binder
Helped with homework (kid #1-4)
Hung up my clothes
Looked for lost library books
Dropped a friend a note
Replenished the toilet paper in BOTH bathrooms
Found the computer cord that was missing
Looked for lost shin guards
Looked for lost soccer shoes
Researched stink-away spray for the shoes
Ordered stink-away spray for the shoes
De-escalated a hostile situation between kids #1 and #3
Kept the kids alive
And so on….
I still have my To-Do list and I try to pick two things (even though I want to pick five) that I will try to finish each day. But when the day is nearing bedtime, I find that looking at all the things I DID do brings me far greater peace and sense of accomplishment than looking over all the things I didn’t do yet.
What about you? Maybe you need to make a Did-Do list! You fill the hours and minutes of your day with important things – things that matter. That 20-minute conversation in the grocery store with that friend you haven’t seen in a while? You may not know it, but that helped ease the feelings of isolation she’s been fighting. That fort you built with your 6-year old? He needed some extra TLC because learning to read is SO very hard. Taking a shower? There is something therapeutic and rejuvenating about getting clean and spending a few moments to slap on some make-up or wear your favorite comfy outfit.
Please, don’t toss out that To-Do list! It is necessary and keeps us organized and moving forward. But try adding the practice of a Did-Do list, and celebrate all the time-worthy things you did today, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Happy listing!