Daily Checklist: Living a Methodical Life

by | Sep 16, 2009 | Julie | 13 comments

As promised, here’s what I’ve been doing to try to get myself going down the road to Happy Julie Life Land. As part of living life more methodically, I came up with four things I wanted to do every day: exercise, write, clean the house (or some part of it) and a general category I’m calling “housekeeping” which basically means anything related to running the business of our lives, from budgets to house renovations to researching various entrepreneurial ideas Dave and I come up with.

This is my list. It might not work for you. It certainly won’t if you work outside your house every day. But I’m going to tell you all about it, because maybe something about my thought process will help you to figure out what you want to do every day (alternatively, it will make you think I am a loony nutbar who’s full of herself and needs to get her priorities in order).

There was a great article in this month’s issue of Body + Soul magazine about breaking habits, and that’s essentially what I’m doing here (though maybe not so much breaking bad habits as starting good ones). Listen, I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to do these things, but it’s time for me to buck up and just do them. Part of breaking habits is setting the goal, and part of it is just doing the right thing, every day, until that becomes your habit. The whole article seemed really relevant to what I’m trying to do here, but this part in particular screamed at me:

Take it step-by-step. One metaphor that adequately portrays how habit works is this: Picture yourself taking a sled down an untouched, snowy hillside. When you climb back to the top, you have a choice: Go down the same path or start a new one. If you go down the same track, the ride is faster and easier, and after a while it’s tough to get out of. That, says [Lenora] Yuen, is a lot like habit.

To change the direction and shape of that path, you have to be patient enough to forge a new one, and use it enough times that doing so becomes faster, requiring less thought and effort.

Ok! So I’ve been doing this for about three weeks, and it is slowly making a difference. My first thought every day is, “What am I going to do for exercise today?” (ok, that’s my first thought after, “Ugh, when will we ever get enough sleep?”).

Here’s a little more about my list (you asked, right? you didn’t? well, here’s a little more anyway):

Three times I’ve been pregnant, and three times I’ve gotten back down to my fighting weight, but each time my body is different: softer, wider, pillowy. And it takes longer each time. But Zuzu is fifteen months old, and not only do I want to look better in clothes, I also want to just have that daily habit of exercising. Because I never have, and I know my life would be better if I did (plus it’s a good model for the kiddos). A few weeks ago I saw this Helena Rubenstein quote: “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones” and while she was talking mostly about cosmetics, I feel like this is true of exercising also. Someone all cheeky with the glow of exercise looks lovely. Someone pasty with the pallor of chips on the couch, not so much. The quote is fairly unfeminist when applied to makeup, but I really like it as a life lesson. Meaning: get out there and DO something, Julie! Don’t be a lump!

Now, when I say “clean,” I don’t mean doing dishes, or picking up daily clutter, making beds, or unloading the dishwasher. Those things have to happen every day. What I’m talking about is doing one extra deep cleaning thing. Because I was doing the dishes and picking up the clutter, and corners of my house are still appalling. It’s too overwhelming to do it all at once (plus: impossible), but if I do one thing a day, it works. Things on this list include: wiping down the baseboards in one room, mopping the floor in one room, cleaning the shower curtain, dusting, walking around with glass cleaner and a cloth and wiping away any obvious hand and nose prints. Also clearing clutter out of some area that has gone to seed, like my dresser or the mantel.

Like I said, this is a broad category that just means doing something to keep the business of our lives moving forward. Financial things fall into this category, as do house renovation things, and have-been-on-my-list-awhile things (like figuring out a way to attach the bike trailer to my bicycle even though we can’t find the connector bracket thingie). Anything in this category supports our family and moves us forward.

I really love this advice from DIY Planner: “The secret to writing every day is to write every day.” Exactly. If you really want to do it, find a way. Stay up a little later, get up early, hide in the bathroom, do what it takes. When I write every day, it’s like I’m exercising some little writer person in my brain, and then that little Bartleby is on high alert and keeps throwing out more little writerly sentences, more and more every day, and then I have notebooks scattered throughout the house so I make sure to write the things down when I think of them. And the writing every day just happens, then. But you really need to write every day in order to write every day. (Coming next week: more obvious advice! If you want to eat healthier, eat healthier! If you wish you read more books, then read more books!)

So there you go. What’s on your list?


  1. Teresa

    Julie – bring the bike and the carrier to Gorham Bike and Ski (773-1700)and they will do it for you and give you the part. Call ahead and you can have an actual appointment where they are ready for you. That is quite a list! Something else to check out for the exercise http://www.youtube.com/user/yogatoday. You are doing a lot during each day. You left out parenting 2 under 5 (meals, entertaining them, educating them, listening to them, changing diapers)and managing the tricky time of 3-6 pm when we are all SO tired. I remember not so long ago when my small one would have to poop (can I write that online?) and everything would stop and WE would have to hang in the bathroom for the entire time. I KNOW! Then I was slowly replaced with a wooden sword across his lap and I could fold laundry in the bedroom across the hall – but it has not improved that much
    because almost everyday I get the “Mom!!!! can you come check????”
    Think of all the women you are inspiring with your blog!

  2. Clog

    So often with the exercise part, people don’t do it long enough to see the results, which usually takes about 6 weeks. Once they begin to see the results, they are hooked. And don’t even think about when you get old like me and have to do 3X as much to even maintain a reasonable normal body weight!

  3. Anne

    I have a daily checklist too, but it’s on a boring Google Docs spreadsheet. I think I’d be WAY more likely to follow it if I had it in your handwriting with little boxes and such next to each item.

    My list is much like yours. It includes exercise, but it also includes taking a ten-minute walk break from my desk, because let me tell you, nothing sabotages your physique more than a full-time desk job where all you do is sit and stare at a computer all day long. I’ve also got “meaningful, face-to-face interaction with another human being.” Because I also tend to hide out in my office a lot and I can go through a whole day at work without speaking to anyone until I go home. And after a while, that makes your brain hurt.

  4. Elizabeth

    I have added three things to my daily to-do list which bring me joy, now that Isaac is in school. I told myself that I would devote 1.5-3 hours to these pursuits each day, since if I waited “until I have time” after all the errands and must-dos, I would NEVER have time.
    1. Write
    2. Knit
    3. Read
    And, I don’t exercise EVERY day, but I exercise six times a week. I usually run 4 times a week and go to yoga 2 times. Sometimes, I run 3, yoga 2, take a walk in the neighborhood. Sometimes I do three things in one day. It’s more flexible this way. I know that there’s no way I can exercise every day, but this works for me and I’ve been doing it for a while now (years?) with success.

    I make a list EVERY day. Some random things on my list today:

    paperwork, order long slip, call camera store, take pants to tailor, Target/Old Navy, post office, pick up prescription, work at yarn shop (There’s more – we’ll see how much I get done today and how much gets crossed out and moved to Thursday).

  5. Julie

    I do find it makes a huge difference to have the list be something that I write down and check off. I took the checklist and printed it out, seven times per side of paper, so I’ve got a week’s worth of lists ready to go. When I make lists like yours, Elizabeth, I never get anything done, because the kids always get in the way. Took me this long to realize that I need categories rather than specific items (though I do have a few other, separate lists, of category items, so I have no excuse for standing around being unsure what needs deep cleaning, or whatever.

    Mom, thanks for saying that about the exercising. I definitely do bursts of regular exercising, but I definitely quit before anything happens. It just seems like, you know, you do crunches one day, and the next day when you do the crunches you should not be seeing that flabby jiggle. But you do. Now I’m determined to do look toward six weeks. Because it is totally frustrating that I’ve hit this weight/flab plateau.

  6. Christina

    Julie- You might like the chore planner here- http://www.motivatedmoms.com/products.html They divide up household stuff that needs to be done for each day of the year- plus they have a daily list somewhat similar to yours- you can see how they set it up on their sample pages. If you don’t want to pay they let you download the 2002 planner. Once we’re settled I am definately going to use this– I know a lot of people have raved about it to me.

  7. Julie

    I was totally skeptical of that chore planner at Motivated Moms when I first looked at it, but as someone who often has trouble setting goals for herself, I can really see the value of having it all written out like that. I like the full-size planner (ahem! without the Bible readings, though!): “Children! It’s Wednesday! Time to clip your nails!”

  8. sarah

    Julie – Don’t forget “Have fun!” on your list! And I don’t mean with your kids. I find that having a girls night out – doesn’t have to be a biggie – going out to have a few glasses of wine and some apps with a few friends after the kids go to bed (no babysitter needed if Dave is home) or having a few friends over for the same, a few bottles of wine, everyone bring an app, or even just going out with one friend for a simple dinner, every once in a while (I try to do one thing like this once a month by realistically turns out to be every 6-8 weeks) does wonders for my state of mind. It’s so easy as a mom to get isolated by the “getting stuff done” routine, just spending a few hours of girlfriend time relaxing and laughing and is really therapeutic.

  9. Christina

    Nora scratching me with dirt encrustred nails always seems to be my signal that her nails need to be cut- and then I feel like a terrible mother!- so I can see the value- I can see losing total track with multiple kids. I think it will be a good planner for me because I tend to get overly ambitious and then never get anything done. I always think I should clean the entire fridge, kitchen, etc and then never get to it because it is too overwhelming and I get annoyingly perfectionistic about it– but they have you clean just a shelf at a time which is manageable. And having a spirtual focus is on my life list as well so the bible readings work well for me.

  10. Anne

    ^^^ what sarah said ^^^

  11. Lisa van Oosterum

    I am going to Bikrams tomorrow. They have childcare. Wanna come? 9:30 AM.


    I am trying to go every week on Wed and Fri….

  12. Julie

    Um, maybe! Though not tomorrow, because I promised E + Z we’d go to the 11 story hour at the library. But maybe next Wednesday! How long is the class? Do you essentially have to wear a bikini so you don’t melt into a giant puddle?

  13. Lisa van Oosterum

    Yes, I wear an sports bra and shorts, major sweat…it is really invigorating. I will get in touch next week!


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