Homemaking,  Motherhood

To Do List vs. Done List

I believe that no Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM) can say that feeling fulfilled or productive in their work is an easy thing. I wrote a post a while back about Setting Goals and Priorities as a Stay-at-Home Mom, which I think is a really good thing to do to keep you grounded and on track with your desires and the needs of your household. But sometimes life swoops in and makes a wreck of our goals for the week, or our priorities have to shift. It happens all the time for SAHMs, because we are not dealing with stuff, we are dealing with people, who are unpredictable and ever-changing (especially little people!).

Before becoming a mom, my “To Do” list was my chart for whether I was being productive on a daily basis or not. I began to measure my worth and value to the extent that my To Do list was completed. It usually wasn’t, because I always have such high standards for myself. Now, as a mom who works and stays at home, some days my To Do list doesn’t even get touched. On those days, it’s easy to feel as though I accomplished “nothing” at all! But we know that’s not true. After several months of frustration because my role of being a mother was standing in the way of me completing my To Do list and thus being fulfilled as a human being, I developed a new tactic. I call it the “Done” list.

Motherhood and Homemaking include so many tasks that are routine or “implied” such that they don’t need to be written down every day. Feeding, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and naptime are just to name a few, but these tasks take up the bulk of our day! When I began to doubt that I was really doing anything important with my days, I took one day and made a “Done” list. Every couple hours or so, I would sit down and write out what I had done those last couple hours. My “Done” list turned out to be way longer than my To Do list, and had lots of important stuff on there!

Below is an example of my To Do list from a few days ago:


  1. Lilly Bath
  2. Crockpot
  3. Teaching invoice
  4. Blog post
  5. Call mom

This To Do list is reasonably short (I’ve gotten better at paring those down), with a good variety of things to do, nothing too big but all necessary to do that day. But if I ended up only getting one of these things done, I would feel like my day was only 20% successful. Now here’s my Done list for that same day:


  • Nurse
  • Wrote post
  • 4 Pins
  • John Breakfast
  • Lilly + me Breakfast
  • Clean toilet
  • Lilly bath
  • Walk
  • Bring book to John at work
  • Check mail
  • Nurse
  • Lilly nap
  • Edit post
  • Teaching invoice
  • Call mom
  • Play with Lilly
  • Start crockpot
  • Fix lunch
  • Lunch
  • Family walk
  • Discuss post with John
  • Nurse
  • Play with Lilly
  • Lilly nap
  • Prep for teaching
  • Tidy up
  • Teach 2 students
  • Teaching prep/Blog prep
  • Teach 1 student
  • Dinner prep
  • Dinner
  • Lilly bedtime routine
  • Edit and publish blog post
  • Watch Netflix J
  • Read Bible with John
  • Prep for tomorrow
  • Bed

That’s a whole lot more comprehensive of what I did all day, and amazingly enough it did include all of the items on my To Do list as well! Most importantly, it included time caring for my husband, my daughter, and my home – all a part of my job description and priorities. This isn’t necessarily something that you need to do every day (it takes diligence to stop, remember, and write down all the things you did!), but if you’re feeling a bit unproductive, try a Done list and you’ll see where you are spending all your time.
This quote from Esther Engelsma in her booklet, How Can I Feel Productive as a Mom? really helped me start thinking about how I spend my time as a SAHM:

“What, exactly, does it mean to use time well? Simply that you are doing what you should be doing when you should be doing it. Before you became a mom, using time well almost always led to checking many tasks off your list. As a mom, though, using time well doesn’t guarantee that you will get everything, or even anything, checked off your list. Children have a way of interrupting days of perfectly planned productivity, and because we associate feeling productive with completed lists, it can be hard to feel productive at the end of the day. We need to retrain our brains to associate the feeling of accomplishment with diligence, with using time well, not with checking tasks off a list (although a list is a helpful tool to encourage and track diligent work). This is not just a different scale of productivity it’s an entirely different system. You can be just as productive as anyone else because you can use your time just as well as they use theirs, regardless of how many hours of focused work they are able to do in a day.”

Diligence is important, and a Done list will show that! If you just have Netflix and mealtimes on your Done list, chances are you aren’t using your time well. But my guess is that most of us don’t struggle with that. We struggle with the fact that we feel like we are giving everything we have, burning the candle at both ends, and yet the To Do list still remains unfinished. Use a Done list to track your diligence, and let it re-shape how you live your days!

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