Checking Off the Done List

It’s midnight and I can feel myself fading, finally snug enough in my cocoon of blankets to drift off to sleep.  The sound of snoring (is that my husband or the dog?) can’t even stop this slumber now, as I tumble deep into – wait, did someone say dog? I never did bathe the dogs today. Nor did I pick up canned goods for the food drive or schedule the car inspection.

And there it is. The list that robs me of my rest is warming up to run a marathon through my mind. It’s not even a whole list; it’s just three things that didn’t get checked off of yesterday’s to-do list. Hardly worth losing sleep over, yet here I lie, suddenly wide awake, contemplating the things left undone, mentally rescheduling them for another day when things are less busy, and then reminding myself that things are never less busy.

I wonder why I give so much thought to the things I didn’t accomplish. If I have to lie awake, reviewing the previous day, why is it that can’t I celebrate the to-do list items that did get done rather than fret over the three that didn’t? Better still, why do I neglect to calculate all of the unlisted entries, the things that take up the most of my day, but never make it onto the list because they are so ingrained in my routine, they don’t need reminders?

I start each day just about the same way: prayer, coffee, dogs (walk and feed), Bible, set up the homeschool day, make my to-do list. Funny, there are five things that happen before the list is even made, and several things that happen after that never even make the cut: make breakfast, help with math, run the dishwasher, teach language arts, make lunch…

All of these things take time, but because they have become a natural part of my routine as a homeschooling mother, I never seem to account for the hours spent on these things when I’m feeling unaccomplished because I ran out of time before I ran out of checklist.

I know I am not alone. I’ve found there are many homeschooling parents who also tend to weigh their “jobs undone” with a heavier hand than their “jobs well done.” And I think, my like-minded friends, that it’s time we change our perspective, revamp those lists and get some well-needed rest.

I’m not suggesting we forget about the tasks that make up our to-do lists. In the midst of all that happens in a homeschooling day, we all need reminders of the various things that need our attention. What we don’t need are lists too long to possibly complete — or ones that neglect to recognize that the time not spent on certain tasks was better invested in purposeful endeavors like educating our children and nurturing our families’ relationships with God.

When God called us to homeschool, He already prioritized our to-do lists. If we stretch ourselves thin on a multitude of additional tasks, and then waste more time worrying over them, how can we apply due diligence to this purpose He set for our lives?

Rather than scrutinizing our unfinished to-do lists, perhaps a better practice would be to review a “done with diligence” list:

Did I homeschool the children to the best of my ability? Check. Did I model kindness, grace and thankfulness? Check. Did I prayerfully practice patience through the hard moments? Check.  Did we pray together as a family? Check.

And did I remind myself that even in the times that I fell short, His grace is still freely given? Check.

It’s amazing what a change of perspective can do. When we rest our heads at night, just knowing that we’ve faithfully attended to the things that truly matter should bring us more peace than checking off a list of 100 other things that don’t.


(A note from the author: Did I mention I also write for The Old Schoolhouse® Homeschooling with Heart Blog? This post originally appeared there, under the title Stop Stressing Your To Do List. )

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