How Smart Women Rethink Their To-Do Lists

I was working with a group of women last week on the idea of creating a WANT to do list vs. reacting to a NEED to do list. This is an exercise that I enjoy doing with people, where we take a step back from our need to do, should do, have to do mindset, and reframe our thinking to developing a want to do, love to do, look forward to doing list.

Because every week we need to do more of what we want to do!

A question came my way from the audience. It was a brilliant question; encompassing struggles we all have around finding time to do more of what we want to do.

"How do I add more of what I want to do in my week when I have things that HAVE to be done - like driving the kids to various activities, grocery shopping, dry cleaners, commuting to work - time suckers that I just can't not do."

Great question.

We can delete emails. We can delegate tasks. We can skip meetings. But, we have to eat. We have to pick our kids up. We need clean clothes, and we have to show up at the office (at least sometimes).

We are out of the black and white and into the grey area of life balance. This is where reality meets best intentions. The intersection of visionary and practicality. The crossroads of implementing new behaviors or slipping back into old habits.

It is time to rethink our thinking.

Errands. Tasks. Duties. Responsibilities. When we get busy or overwhelmed, this is how we think about those things that need to get done in our lives.

Let's think about things differently.

For example, our role as our children's chauffer. School, after school activities, sporting practice, sporting events, birthday parties. The list is never ending. Why do you do it?

Because you want your children to grow up educated, socialized, happy and hopefully receiving a full scholarship to University.

You love your children, and you want the best for them. That's awesome. Pat yourself on the back for that. Now, how about really enjoying them? Spending quality time with family is a difficult thing for many of us to do these days with our busy schedules, though I have no doubt that more quality time with your family is on your list of things you'd want to do.

So the next time you find yourself in the car shuttling the kids to a sporting practice, a game, or home from school, put down your phone, ask them to put theirs down as well, and talk.

Engage. How was your day? How are you feeling about this game coming up? Whatever the topic is, make it a conversation between yourself and your kids - not a conversation you are having with someone at work.

All of a sudden, a 'task' becomes something that you wanted to do this week - spend some quality time with your family.

We just reframed our situation to our advantage. We deleted a need to do and added a want to do. Let's try another reframe.

Grocery shopping. I used to look at the hour I would spend at the grocery store as a task that needed to get done every week. When I would write out my grocery list, I put food items in the order they appeared as I made my way through the grocery store - for ultimate efficiency. And, to ensure my productivity, I usually scheduled my shopping trip around a non-urgent but still necessary conference call, so I could work and shop at the same time.

Then one day I was creating my weekly want to do list, and I listed 'eat healthier'. Immediately my stomach dropped - to eat healthier meant more time shopping for food! Ugh. How could I do that?

Then I thought about it. Grocery shopping in itself WAS my commitment to eating healthier. I didn't have to spend more time shopping, I just had to be more present when I was shopping to what I was buying, and that was enough for now.

I elevated grocery shopping in my mind from an errand to a commitment I made to myself to eat healthier every week. That small change alone was enough to make me feel like I was making progress on my personal goal to eat healthier.

Try this exercise on your own list of 'errands'. You just may find that things you feel you have to do truly are things you want to do, just thought about in a slightly different way.

And, if anyone can reframe cleaning the house, let me know. I can't quite get that one from my have to do to my want to do list. Oh wait, doesn't cleaning count as physical activity?! I think I just picked up a day of exercise!

If You Do Nothing Else ...

Try this at work too! Find one scheduled meeting during your day that you actually enjoy doing; and enjoy it! Your day will go from 'overscheduled and overwhelming' to 'looking forward to that call!' A small, but very significant, change to your overall view of the day.