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Question: How often do you appear on your to-do list?

Having to show up for life and kids can be an exhausting process. Each day presents new challenges and things to do so it’s safe to say, I have a lot of lists and they’re an important part of my day-to-day life.  

Whether it’s electronic or written, there’s usually a list nearby at any given time. I learned early that my brain forgets things fast so if it’s not on my calendar or on a list, it’s not going to get done.  

Like anything in life, there needs to be some balance. If I’m not careful I could easily find myself in a forest of to-do lists and fall into the burned-out-momma depths, which usually ends with me laying on the couch all day eating a family sized bag of peanut M&M’s while watching Brene Brown and Oprah.  

The struggle can be real but, I mean, I’m getting stuff done, right?  

It was easy for me to rationalize this type of behavior when my kids were at their other parent’s home because I figured I could finally unwind. Unwinding for me (then) meant I was a couch puddle and felt lousy afterwards because I didn’t make time to do things that fulfilled my heart and soul. It was also when my drinking was at it’s heaviest.  

That was no way I wanted to live.  

Most of you know I got sober in July 2020 (here’s the link if you’d like to read the original article) and that’s when I really started to notice how unmanageable my to-do lists were. I would have look at all the things on my work and home lists and wonder how I was going to get it all done. It was a serious problem and I was stressed out.  

Knowing that my stress level had a direct correlation to expectations I had of myself didn’t change anything. I had to accept that I was human and I had to release the idea that I could get finish everything on my to-do lists.  In theory, this sounds easy but for someone like me it was a tough cookie to swallow. I even wrote about it here if you’d like to read that floundering experience.  

The pain of being stressed got so great that I finally reached out to my support network for advice. I was met with the question: How often do I put myself on my daily to-do list?  

Yikes! 

But now I was being asked to put ANOTHER thing on my list? 

Yup.  

Sounds counterintuitive but it works wonders when I practice this habit.  

I work from home and have a sticky note with my top 3 things to get done on my computer screen to stay focused. My top 3 things list gets updated every day and I make it a point to put myself on my list. Sometimes it’s doing something I like and other times it’s “Be kind to myself.”  

It’s really that simple.  

The activity isn’t anything crazy, either. Sometimes it’s taking a short walk. Sometimes it’s doing some intentional breathing. Sometimes it’s going down a YouTube rabbit hole. Whatever it may be, I make it a point to fit at least 15 minutes in my day to do something that will make me happy.  

When I’m practicing this habit daily my kids notice and benefit, too. I’m a happier parent who has more patience, love and compassion. I’m someone they can count on.  

I am painfully aware of how I’m still a role model for my kids; for how they will approach the real-world. I can’t be the only one who has caught themselves in a pattern that I’ve learned from my parents and said: Wow, I did that just like my mom.  

So, I choose to be mindful about how I approach my daily to-do’s.  

Am I perfect at it? No.  

Am I trying to be perfect at it? Also no.  

I’m a human who messes up and this is one of those habits that I’d like to implement on more days than not.  

What I realized through this process of putting myself on the list has been life-changing. I’m becoming more aware of what I consume for my emotional, spiritual and physical betterment. I’m beginning to know more triggers of when I’m beginning to enter that burnout state and how to practice self-care in a way that is rejuvenating for me. And I get to block out time to do things I enjoy.  

Today I get to put myself on my to-do list. But more importantly: I am enough. I am infinitely more than what things I’ve checked off my list.  

And you are, too.   

Beth Montgomery
Beth Montgomery is a single mom of teens and is a Jill of all trades who lives in the Harrisburg area. While she wasn't born anywhere near here (or even in this country), she calls Central PA home (for now) and writes about her journeys through adulting... with kids. Visit her online at www.singleparentproject.com or connect with her on the socials.

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