Thursday, March 10, 2011

To Do Lists

I think "To Do" lists are a good thing. I think having a plan is thoughtful and helps promote peace in the workplace, in organizations, and in the family.

But clinging to a plan too tightly can lead to:

1. Guilt (when the plan isn't completed) and
2. Missed opportunities (when an interruption occurs but you ignore it)

There have been many, many times when I've written a To Do List and at the end of the day, less than half of the items have been checked off. I feel like a failure. GUILT.

And there have also been days when I've let no one and nothing stop me from getting my list completed. Even if one of my children asked me to play outside. Even if my husband asked me to sit with him on the couch. I told them "no" and kept on going 100 mph trying to get everything done. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES.

But here's the thing: When I think back on the days I felt guilty for not getting my list completed, when I go over every aspect of my day, I realize THOSE were the days that I got the MOST accomplished. It might not be a physical change. My house might still look like a warzone. But maybe because Reagan and I spent 30 uninterrupted minutes on the floor talking about books and the color pink and God and string cheese and her freckles and dance and castles and soccer, her heart is full.

And just this week, this truth hit me like a ton of bricks: What might seem like an interruption to ME, may have actually been on someone ELSE'S "To Do" list. When I was a classroom teacher, there were a handful of times when MY "To Do" list included unloading to my boss about my very hard day. I would walk into her office at the end of a long day and spend 15-20 minutes just talking (sometimes crying) about the challenges of my day. That certainly wasn't on her list of things to do. But she embraced the interruption, listened, talked, and comforted me.

One day last week, instead of making a "To Do" list, I made a list of every single thing I did. At the end of the day is was over two pages long. It was a simple exercise, but a great reminder that a lot gets done over the course of a day, even if it is unexpected. And even if it's not something you can see.

What's on your list? And how do you handle the interruptions?

Maybe you have an employee who's in pain. You have a project due but maybe she needs a listening ear more than you need to finish that project.

Maybe you have a roommate who needs help studying for a test. Shopping is on your list of things to do, but maybe helping her study tonight is what really matters.

Maybe your lesson plan book is perfectly typed up and filled in for the remainder of the year. But your students don't understand what you taught yesterday. Maybe your students need you to teach them more than you need to teach the lesson plan.

Maybe your child wants you to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear for the 45th time in a row. It might not have been on YOUR list, but it was on HERS.

Maybe your husband needs some quality time with you. And maybe quality time for you means, "Please hang this heavy mirror" but for him it might mean something else.

Make a plan. Make a good plan. One that really matters. One that is not only filled with doing STUFF, but also filled with loving and encouraging others.

And make the most of the interruptions. Because just because it wasn't on YOUR list, doesn't mean it wasn't on THEIRS.

"Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God." -Jim Elliot


  1. I love you!
    That's all,

  2. Such great wisdom from my "little girl".
    love you, mom

  3. Ahh, but Mrs. Trevett, it WAS on my list. It might not have been on THAT day's list, but it was on THE list. Meeting the needs of teachers so they could meet the needs of kids. Actually, that was not just ON the list, it WAS the list. And my heart was also full.

    Great post! I was looking for a little inspiration this evening. I found it.


  4. very wise words, friend!