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One To-Do List is More Important than the Other

If you’re like me, you either end your night reflecting on the next day or you start your morning that way. Either way you most likely have a To-Do list – whether you are super organized, using a system where you color code, or where the list exists in your head.

If you’re like me, you never quite reach fruition. It’s not because of a lack of effort on your part. The list only ten things, or five, or twenty but in general, it looks doable, especially if you plan it out, right? You can even feel the relief when you get to check off something you did.

So close

And then life happens. Because life always happens.

Even as you find yourself gazing longingly at your neatly written To-Do list, wishing for more time to get it all done, don’t forget about that other one, the one you only have written on your heart.

Every day we can choose which list receives most of our attention. Ideally, we will learn to balance our time so both are equally served, but we all know how often we just can’t quite seem to cross everything off our lists.

Switching up your To-Do list

Here’s how I see it: there’s your actual To-Do list, the one where you jot down notes about the chores you need to get done, the appointments you need to make and keep, and all the other business that keeps you busy from day to day. But then there’s the other list, the one where you remind yourself to slow down and notice the smile on your child’s face, the one that is hidden behind the crumbs, crumbs that will end up all over your clean floor.

The floor you are most likely already thinking about sweeping again. On this list, you are reminded to make room on your couch, pushing aside those loads of clean laundry so you can snuggle with your children and read the same book to them over and over.

This list reminds you there will be time to fold those clothes later. It also reminds you to pull out the pots and pans and wooden spoons so your baby can sit on the kitchen floor and make beautifully loud music, even though on the other list, written in bold letters across the top of the page, you’ve reminded yourself to clean the dishes and mop the floor.

The days are short and the lists are long

The day will come when you don’t have two lists in your head. No, when your life finally slows down, you won’t need them anymore.

The To-Do list won’t be needed because you have all the time in the world and so much less that needs to be done.

And the other list has become a part of you, absorbed into the very fabric of who you are. When you get a chance to spend time with loved ones, you no longer need the reminder, or perhaps it was permission you needed, to slow down.

You are now at a place in your life where you understand that the crumbs can always be swept away, but the little faces responsible for them will one day grow up and go away. You have long since learned that laundry is truly never-ending yet always seems to get done. You’ve also figured out that your lap will be empty one day as you find yourself wishing for the chance to tell one more story. Your kitchen stays clean, the pots and pans and wooden spoons only leaving their spots long enough for you to cook with them before you clean them. It stays quiet, the only music you ever hear only exists in your memories.

Don’t forget the “other” To-Do list

So, write that To-Do list. Absolutely do your best to stay on top of everything required of you as you raise your family. But don’t forget that other list. While you are busy with your life, don’t forget to live it.


Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, teaches middle school and high school English. Sandy's idea of a perfect day is one spent creating memories with her grandchildren. This usually includes coloring and reading a lot of books. You can read more of Sandy's work on her blog at

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