How to Write a Mommy-friendly To-Do List

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I’m a list-lover. As someone who highly values productivity, the sight of a crossed-off list can be quite the rush for me. My daddy is the same way. Many of my early memories include him jotting tasks on a crinkled paper and pausing throughout the day to gleefully strike through an item.

Writing lists is a great way to be intentional about how you spend your time. Capturing priorities on paper for the day helps to create a target for what should be accomplished.

For mamas of young ones though, writing lists can also be mildly to wildly frustrating. Because you know what? My children’s priorities don’t usually match up with mine. Shocking, I know. So throughout the day when their realities clash with my all-important list, I perceive it as an interruption and generally that’s when things turn sour.

It’s painful to admit, but mommy isn’t very patient with inconveniences like potty accidents when we have an appointment to make. I’m not as appreciative of their Lego creations and hearing their thoughts when I see their excited outbursts as interruptions.

Then again, the list has to rule at times because dinner still must be made. Letters must be sent. Household tasks must be completed in order for life to continue smoothly.

So how on earth do you reconcile getting stuff done—crossing items off the list—while also prioritizing children’s hearts so they are seen, valued, taught in important matters? Such is the forever dilemma of busy mamas. I want to be productive, but I also want to be present.

 I create a mommy-friendly to-do list every day by building in my children’s needs into my list. My morning lists include tangible actions and overall reminders to care for my children’s hearts. That way, as I glance at my list throughout the day, I realign my next steps with their needs. Also, I score the thrill of crossing off an item.

 I create a mommy-friendly to-do list every day by building in my children’s needs into my list.

Write your children’s needs on your daily list

It works like this: The first two lines on my daily lists are 1) Quiet Time and 2) Care for kids’ hearts. This way, right out of the gate, I “accomplish” (or at least am aware of the daily need for) self care and the most important aspect of rearing children: their hearts. Writing “Care for kids’ hearts” at the very top of my list reminds me that although I may need to grocery shop or clean the bathroom, stopping and holding eye contact while they tell me how far they just jumped is equally important.

These young years are demanding. That’s an understatement; they are suck-everything-out-of-you-debilitating at times. They are also the foundational years of my children’s upbringing.  I don’t want to merely “get through”. I don’t want to push through my days on my own agenda, viewing my tiny human gifts as peripheral to my real tasks. They are more valuable than that. I want to be able to say that I invested my best. That I prioritized their hearts in these little years even as I feel the pull to get stuff done.


mommy and daughter


When I see “Care for kids’ hearts” on the list, I remember that laughing at a silly joke is one way to make them feel valued. I remember to pause in my day to wipe a tear or linger in a needed snuggle. I remember that having an eye-to-eye discussion in discipline is worth my time when sometimes I’d rather simply assign a time out and move on with my day.

Back to the list. After “Quiet time” and “Care for kids’ hearts” usually come reasonable action items which support prioritizing my children during the day. These lines usually look like one or two of the following:

  • Read x books to them
  • Play a game with them
  • Bake cookies with them
  • Help them complete their preschool workbook pages
  • Play outside or go to a park
  • Coach through chores
  • Devotional time
  • Potty training

Writing things like “potty training” may seem ridiculous to some, but for a lister like me it helps me to remember that potty training whichever kid needs it at the time is important and is NOT an interruption. Because it’s on the list! 😉 Therefore, at the end of the day after washing x pairs of undies and cleaning up so many messes, I can still cross that item off. Whew. Another day down.

The rest of my mommy-friendly to-do list usually holds relatively small, easy-to-accomplish personal tasks because I know that my productivity in the classic sense is limited.

Someday my role as mother won’t be so hands-on intense. Maybe then my lists will look different.

These days writing simple reminders and easy action items that help me to prioritize molding my children’s hearts is how I hold my own agenda loosely.

For I know that the day I can plow through my own to-do list with minimal interruptions will be the day I wish my daughter was back on my hip.

What about you? How do you solve the productivity-present puzzle in your everyday?

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  • Jesse May
    May 12, 2015

    I LOVE this post, Evelyn!!! It’s something I’ve been slowly growing aware of in my own life, but I hadn’t quite gotten to the “aha!” moment that you’ve provided here. I’ll definitely be modifying my daily lists from now on. 🙂

    • Evelyn
      May 12, 2015

      Thanks Jesse May! So glad it blessed your heart. 🙂

  • Kate
    May 12, 2015

    Thank you!! I, too am a life-long list maker. Your suggestions are just what I need though; unchecked lists make me feel so wasteful, but this can help me remember what I do/need to do for/with my kids.
    One way I solve the puzzle- I tend to have a lot of out-of-the-house errands that the kids get dragged along with, so I always try to pencil in a fun stop for them while we’re out (park, library, occasionally the coveted candy store!) so they feel their priorities are part of our outing too. And I try to be patient and remember even an item on MY list like the grocery store can be a fun outing for the kids if I just stop rushing and let them explore, “push the cart”, and have their own shopping list too.
    I tend to write my daily list when the kids have gone to bed; perhaps this can now be a time to reflect on how maybe i didn’t spend enough time reading with them or listening to their knock knock jokes, and should make room for it the next day.

    • Evelyn
      May 13, 2015

      Wonderful thoughts, Kate! I love that you pointed out little, minute-by-minute ways to care for their hearts, like slowing down in the grocery store and let them push and adding in a stop for them. Thanks so much for commenting!

  • Gervy
    May 13, 2015

    Thanks for this post. Your approach is something I have already sort of started doing, but it makes me feel less dorky for doing it! For example sometimes my list says “Enjoy your beautiful little babies!” or “hands-on play for 15 mins”. I am a stay-at-home mother of a 3-year-old and a 5 -year-old, and I want to be home with them, but I am a very task-focused person so I struggle to just relax and play…

    • Evelyn
      May 13, 2015

      Haha–not dorky at all! I think for us task-oriented people, it does help to turn the everyday jobs–or even important aspects of relationships–into “tasks.” I just surprise-cleaned the bathroom… then WROTE it on my list so I could see what I already accomplished. 😉 Hah!

  • Rachel @ Intentionally Simple
    May 13, 2015

    Such a good reminder of what really is important. I occasionally will write things like ‘read with kids’ or ‘play outside with kids’ on my to-do list but I really need to be writing in these type of things daily and making them a priority! And, I love, love, love that you put ‘care for kids hearts’ at the top of your list.

    • Evelyn
      May 14, 2015

      Thank you Rachel! I’m sure it’s the same for you– the day doesn’t always turn out like I plan, but it’s a start. 🙂

  • tiffany melvin
    May 17, 2015

    Great post Evelyn. I too am a list maker. My husband jokes about my notebook. He says it’s my second child lol. I struggle with these same issues. I love the idea of adding your children’s needs into your list. I am going to start doing that. What a great idea. Thanks for this post

  • Ashley
    August 11, 2016

    Ya know when you read something that truly speaks to where you are…. Yep this is that for me today. Thank you very much for sharing this and for being you. allowing others to step on your shoulders so we can do this well together.
    Thank you!!

  • Lisa Holmblad
    December 19, 2016

    Thank you for this post!
    I havent liked lists because I hardly ever complete them. But this is good! I will try to incorporate it in the bullet journal I am starting Jan 1st!

    • Evelyn
      December 19, 2016

      Hi Lisa! I haven’t tried bullet journaling yet, but I hear great things about its organizational qualities. 🙂 And yes, I STILL put my most important priorities at the very TOP of my list to remind myself of what is paramount. It takes the pressure off of the list and keeps my head on straight! 🙂

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