Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Operation Ducks in a Row

I was just telling someone the other day that I was sleeping well, surprising for the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  Of course this resulted in me waking at 2am the last few nights and not being able to get back to sleep.  For now I can enjoy that there's no one yelling at me for food and a new diaper, I guess.

I used the time wisely to create my list of Things I'd Like to Finish Before Baby X' Arrives.  And I'm calling this project "Operation Ducks in a Row", because it needs a catchy title, right?  Also because I was up at 2am.

Candy Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row (of course) by gdjewell on Flickr

I started with about 65 things on the list on Friday night and have crossed off 9.5 of them already.  Not too shabby. 

I won't bore you with the contents, but they include buying things for the new baby, getting T's birthday party and Halloween costume planned, preschool paperwork since T is changing schools, attempting to get both baby books in a decent state, and a lot of baby laundry.

I'm a list maker.  The problem is that I like to make lists on a new unblemished sheet of paper, so I have lists in random notebooks and single sheets everywhere, and a hard time keeping them together. 

I hate electronic lists.  I don't get the same satisfaction entering items, and definitely not crossing them off.  I've grudgingly moved to an electronic shopping list app for my phone (Out of Milk), because it's easier to regenerate recurring items and make sure I actually have the list with me, but for to-dos, I like my handcrafted lists.

In graduate school, a colleague introduced me to the idea of creating a task list for the day ahead.  He did his the night before, so he could hit the ground running the next day.  I loved that, and refined it a bit more after reading ZenHabits, to make my list of 3 Most Important Tasks for the day - things I absolutely need to accomplish.

I usually do this at work on a sticky note and then I've got this collection of Post-its with half the items crossed off.  (I said I like lists, not that I'm great at completing them!)  So I bought myself a cute little Moleskine notebook and try to put my daily tasks in there.  That's helped the clutter, and also helped me see what tasks were left undone and need to be moved forward, or just dropped off the list because they're not important enough.

At a work conference a few years ago, one of the speakers made the bold statement "You will never get everything on your to-do list done."  As a young, ambitious single person, I scoffed at the idea, but now have come to realize she's right.  There's always *something* and it's up to me to prioritize whether that's more important than the other things I like to spend my time on: hanging out with T and TJ, crafting, working.

And this is why my Operation Ducks in a Row is so long, and why I look at it as things I'd LIKE to get done, not HAVE to get done.  The "have-tos" are already done - we have diapers, wipes, clothes, a crib and a car seat.  The end.  The baby will be just fine with those items and not much more.

But I know our life will be crazy while we figure out 2 kids, newborn sleep foo, and breastfeeding for hours again.  So I'd like to front-load some of the tasks now, like finding T and X' the perfect ladybug costumes and getting through my photo backlog.

Thanks to this list, I finished the lower priority but fun item of getting T's daycare and toddler group papers, photos and artwork into a (simple) scrapbook album.  I've wanted to do this since March when she left daycare with a deluge of papers detailing her development over the past 18 months, every art project she ever did, and some cute photos of her daily activities.   But it never bubbled up the priority list.  Finally, once I added it to The List, I decided to tackle it this weekend and the happiness and satisfaction I get from seeing the completed album on our kitchen table was totally worth it.  I can't wait to go through it with T.

Tomorrow I've got to work, and am hoping to cross off a few more items, maybe even 4 or 5.  Woot!

Are you a list maker?  What good tips or practices can you share?


  1. I am totally a list maker. And like you, I much prefer paper. I've tried a few different things on my phone, but don't like any of them. The one thing that I end up putting on it are a few reminders that are really time sensitive, since I can tie them to an alarm of sorts. I need a better system for work, and need to do a better job of prioritizing things. Definitely a work in progress. Oh, and we use Grocery IQ for our shopping list. I'll have to look at the app you use to see how it compares.

    1. I was going to ask why you're still awake, then I realized you're probably up for work! The Out of Milk app we use is on Android and we didn't pay the extra $ to sync it between mine and TJ's phones because he doesn't have a data plan. But I think it's a nifty feature.

      Do you guys use Outlook or something at work? I have two calendars - one for work and one for home, so anything work-related that is time-sensitive goes on that calendar. But I can't put my to dos in Outlook - I need them on paper :)

    2. Sadly, yes, I get up at 5am most days. =) I do use the calendar with my work email for some reminders--mostly stuff that I need to be reminded about on a daily basis or things like conference calls--but I always seem to think of things that I need to do while I'm driving or in the shower or something. And I can't access my work email, etc. from home.

  2. I love making to-do lists, and I will admit to putting something unofficial that I've done on the list, just so I get the satisfaction of crossing it off. This is why I can't do electronic lists. Not as satisfying.

    1. I know! I just added and immediately crossed off a few other things on my list that I had forgotten about when making it :)

  3. You don't know how glad I am that your operation ducks in a row wasn't related to T wanting to find her rubber duckies after lunch the other day. = )


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