How Do You Tackle an Impossible To-Do List?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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It’s the weekend! Finally! And it’s one of my kids-free weekends. I get one weekend without my children every two weeks. A weekend which they spend with their father who they miss and love so much. For me, these weekends are a welcome reprieve from the business of combining work and household chores with the fulltime care for two energetic kids. I don’t feel guilty in saying that, even though I love spending time with my children, I look forward to these weekends as well.

And yet, they usually don’t go as I hoped. This is a pattern that’s been forming for the past two years or so, ever since my ex-husband moved further away and we had to install this arrangement. I’ll look forward to this weekend and know it’s coming, and in the weeks leading up to it, I’ll leave the chores that I don’t get to, on the to-do list for that weekend. This list is usually still long from the weekend before, and stuff gets added to it every week, every day. In the end, it becomes this huge dragon that seems impossible to vanquish.

Here’s a taste of what my list has grown into over the past few weeks and months:

  • clean out my fridge
  • defrost the freezer
  • correct students’ papers and tests
  • organize my school papers
  • clear my desk
  • organize the kids’ toys
  • do laundry
  • iron about 4 baskets of laundry
  • clean the house (I know, very general)
  • clear out the baskets and bags of ‘junk’ that have been piling up while cleaning
  • sort through the kids’ clothes that no longer fit
  • reorganize the kitchen cabinets
  • clean the cooker hood
  • donate unwanted clothes and toys
  • write blog posts
  • (luckily it’s raining this weekend so I can forget about cleaning the windows)

On top of that, these weekends are also important times for me to rest and take care of myself, and I want to spend quality time with my partner as well.

What usually ends up happening is the following: I’ll take Friday night to relax with the idea I’ll go to bed early. Then I’ll watch some Netflix, or a movie, or Youtube, or all of the above until it’s too late to go to bed early. I’ll sleep in on Saturday morning because I need the sleep and because I finally can (my son’s usually up before 6 AM). In the morning, I’ll feel stressed due to that huge list that’s staring me in the face, and I’ll convince myself that it’s fine to just start with something fun (like writing this blog post). Or I’ll do some ironing or cleaning with Netflix in the background, making it last that much longer. I’ll go to my drug of choice for that moment.

The thing is, I know what to do about it. I’ve read so many organizing books and watched time management seminars that I’m well aware of how to tackle this issue. I just. Need. To. Do. It. And it all starts with a plan.

So, this blog post will be my guideline (and perhaps yours) to conquer this paralysis in the face of a to-do list that’s just untackable. I’m going to try the following approach:

Take a piece of paper, or print off a to-do list template online that you like (having beautiful things helps keep me motivated). You could also use an app (I like Todoist) to keep track of tasks as they come up. Write down your tasks and estimate how long they would take. See if there are tasks you can drop, or ask help for (my amazing partner will often help me clean my house when he has time).
Then factor in how much time you can or want to spend on the tasks that are left over the course of the day (or weekend) and plan them in. Write them in your calendar. All the other chores you can stop worrying about. They’ll get scheduled some other time.

Find out what will help you do these tasks. Is it a cupcake at the end of the task? Is it some music during? Is it getting dressed up nicely to do them? Or pouring yourself a cup of coffee first? Make these tasks as enjoyable as you can.

Finally, do not forget to plan your REST as well. This is an important reminder for me, because if I don’t rest on these weekends, I’ll go into the weekend with an energy debt already and that NEVER plays out well.

Here’s to making this coming weekend a joyful, productive and restfull time.
I’m wishing you the very same!

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