To-Do Wishlist

I have a lot of long-term projects, like everybody. Stuff I want to do, to get to, ‘eventually.’ I tend to get bogged down in everyday and shove it to the back burner, which is fine, but my problem is that when I do have time, all the things I wanted to do have slipped my mind. Which is why I spend a lot of time on Twitter and have very little to show for it.

To help myself remember to tackle all those things I want to do ‘someday,’ I decided I needed a To-Do Wishlist. Something that wasn’t my daily to-do list, but also wasn’t so far-reaching that it was a bucket list. I wanted something I could categorize, too; my projects tend to fall into difference spaces in my life. Some are parenting-related; some are writing-related; some are product designs that I’d like to get up and for sale. Each category has a list of stuff I’d like to get to, soonish.


So I designed myself a list. And even better, I laminated it, using my delightful new toy. Now, I can slip one or two into the pocket of my daily planner to remind myself of things I want to do in my spare time; or I can post some up on the wall above my desk as a running tally of work to do (this might be a ‘new house’ thing – right now, my desk has a big window over it and no wall space).

And, since I’m a generous soul, I thought I’d make my To-Do Wishlist available as a free printable.

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Organized Life: Grocery Shopping

Even before we had children, I grocery shopped a lot. I like to cook, and we have people over a lot – brunches, football, game nights, you name it. Now that we have two little bottomless pits eating everything we can put in front of them, I’m on a first-name basis with the cashier.

Okay, I won’t lie, I was on a first-name basis with the cashier before. I like to talk to people. It drives my husband insane.

When you do a lot of grocery shopping, you learn the virtue of an organized list. (Also when you make a lot of lists. Shout out to my fellow Virgos.) Separating your grocery list by department is something I’ve shouted from the rooftops for years. It makes it SO much easier to make sure that you’re getting everything you need in one efficient run through the store.

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It’s the time of year when a lot of people are working on resolutions, and keeping them or failing to do so. I didn’t set a New Years’ resolution, per se, but decided to work on my own goals after the bustle of the holidays was over. Specifically, my writing goals.

My nebulous ‘be a writer’ goal got a little more focused late last year, when an organization I’m happy to be a member of – the Romance Writers of America – changed their membership rules to specify that members need to prove serious intent. No more lollygagging! There’s plenty of time, of course – but it is time to get serious and see if I can really finish something.

My problem has never been ability (she said humbly), but lack of focus. For a long time, I would have a hard time writing because I often felt that I should be working – this was a particular problem when I telecommuted, because when you work at home it’s very hard to separate things.

When I decided to stay at home with the babies, one of the things I committed to doing was writing more. RWA’s change has given me a deadline, something I apparently need.

So how do I make myself write? What I’ve decided to do is set short-term goals. Rather than say ‘I want to finish a book’ by a certain date – or even ‘I want to finish a chapter’ – I’m saying ‘I will write.’ Specifically, I will write at least five hundred words a day, three days a week. Fifteen hundred words a week is practically minuscule – I frequently write more in a blog post, because I’m a wordy m-fer. But it’s the commitment that’s important.

short term goals

It’s adding the task to my to-do list; if I don’t get words in today, because babies or grocery or chaos or whatever, it moves forward to tomorrow and it gets done. Three days out of seven is a doable, achievable thing – and that’s my focus. I’m not giving myself huge goals – those are in the long term. I’m not even worried about finishing. I’m just trying to build a habit.

Rather than setting big, exciting dream-building goals, I’m setting goals I can actually meet. Once I have a strong writing habit, I can dip my foot into more specific, bigger goals – finish Chapter 11! Finish the book! Edit the book! But no ambitious daydreams are going to force me to sit in my chair and write; only daily accountability is.

So I bought myself a planner – something I needed anyway. I have one that is both weekly and monthly. On the weekly pages, I write my regular daily to-do list: things like ‘baby bath time’ and ‘go to Costco’. There’s a space for my meal plan (let’s talk about that another blog post, shall we?), and at the very bottom of every day, I write ‘Words:’. And then I jot down my word count after I’ve written.

On the monthly pages, I’ve pre-written my goals: 1500 words a week, 6000 words by the end of every month. Every Sunday, I add up my words from the week’s writing and note it on the monthly page above the goal. It’s very satisfying.

Eventually, I’ll be able to use the same system for fancier writing goals and deadlines – edit chapter four! Submit proofs! Release day! Plot sequel! (Think big!) All on the monthly page, with all my day-to-day still on the weekly. I might someday graduate to a fancier planner, but I think the system will stick.

So far, it’s going well, despite the chaos that is life with babies and family and everything else. I’m pretty pleased with the system – and even if I fail one week, the goals are so achievable (and so simple) that I’m not falling so far behind that I just give up.