To Do List…

Ask the Organizer

By, Mrs. Devora Farrell

I learned my lesson.  After too many years of To Do Lists whose lengths rivaled The Oxford English Dictionary, my daily To Do List rarely contains more than three items.  I have other ongoing lists:  Bucket List; Waiting List (see last issue’s column); Spiritual Growth List; Books to Read; Projects; Packing; and lists corresponding to particular holidays or celebrations with pragmatic tasks that I want to take care of the next time.  Those “back-up” lists are kept in a folder, to be retrieved when needed, but hidden the rest of the time.

When my daily To Do List ran several pages, I constantly felt that I was falling behind, stressed (desserts spelled backwards), and not accomplishing much.  I admit that it also made me feel important, that I was needed and that I was so very busy.  Not true.  Self-worth is not determined by the amount of effort expended in a day.  Nor does such an endless list lend itself to an enjoyable day, which added together, creates an entire life.

When reading a book with children, I don’t want to have my brain focused on something else.  I want to notice their changes of expression, furrowed brow, questions bubbling up to the surface.  I want to see the pages through their eyes.  When baking challah, I want to feel the sticky dough on my fingers, begging for more flour.  When folding laundry, I want to notice the clean smell of the clothing and their neat stacks.  When on a phone call, I want to truly listen to what the other person is – or isn’t – saying.  A long To Do List prevents all of these from occurring.  My thoughts are scattered, always focusing on the next item and the one after that.

If you are blessed with children, there will always be more to do, and demands for things to be done all at the same time.  A certain amount of busy-ness is expected at particular times of life, in particular settings, with particular people.  That doesn’t mean that I should add to it and make the challenges insurmountable.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

So, how is a useful To Do List created?  Have a longterm goal in mind and break it down into teeny-tiny steps.  For example, if the larger goal is to foster an “Attitude of Gratitude,” an item on the daily To Do List could be to write down one thing to be grateful for during breakfast.  The next day, an item on the daily To Do List could be to share a specific thankful moment with a friend or spouse.  The second entry could be an errand, or an obligatory phone call.  The third might be to write an article (!).  The point is not what’s on your list in comparison to anybody else’s, but what would make you feel that you accomplished something today (of course, daily chores still need to be addressed, but they don’t necessarily need to be on this list).  It’s not a contest.  It’s your day, and a bunch of days together make a life.

Overwhelmed by too much to do and not enough time to do it?  Organizing expert and efficiency coach, Mrs. Devora Farrell, can help you get it together in a way that works for you.  She can be reached at (973) 919-7761 or



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