STYLE Savvy: Using the Toddler Diet Approach to Getting Things Done

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"The toddler diet approach to organizing" by Lisa Hess (CatholicMom.com)

Pixabay (2017), CC0 Public Domain

The three weeks between my last spring semester final and the first day of my summer class filled up in record time. I anticipated at least a week’s worth of do-nothing (or at least no deadlines or appointments) weekdays, even if they were scattered throughout the three-week period. But, with a writing conference, a car search, Mom chauffeuring (thanks to being down by one car) and the myriad other things that fill days when we’re not looking, open-ended days were hard to come by.

Never one to readily take no for an answer, I stubbornly elbowed my way past the obstacles in my calendar and persisted in working my way through as much of my list as possible. At the beginning of my second week off (one week down, two to go), I cleaned off the coral Wall Pops dot where I’d listed my May deadlines (which I met, thankyouverymuch), grabbed my trusty white board marker and replaced May deadlines with the key elements that I wanted/needed to fill my summer days. Writing. Class prep. Reading. House stuff. An online course I’d signed up for. Meditation.

Et cetera.

I’d post a picture, but you’d laugh at the ridiculousness of what I set out to accomplish on a daily basis.

If I lived by myself in a cave somewhere with some sort of miraculous access to takeout and an endless supply of clean clothing, perhaps I could actually do all the things I set out to do. But this silly thing called the real world insists on butting into my best-laid plans.

On that first day, I came close. I did most of the things I set out to do for most of the time increments I’d set (An hour of class prep? Check). I didn’t exactly do all of them, however, and I didn’t exactly finish at a reasonable hour.

So I decided this wasn’t exactly a workable plan.

On to Plan B: The Toddler Diet.

When my daughter was small, I remember reading that parents shouldn’t judge the quality of a toddler’s diet by what she eats (or doesn’t) in one day. Instead, it was important to take the long view, looking at what she ate over the course of a week. Even toddlers, who are smarter than they look, tend to take in what they need to take in, given time and healthy options.

If a toddler can do it with food intake, I can do it with goal-setting.

So, I decided to take the long view. I might not get everything in every day but, by the end of the week, I should have spent at least a little time on all of the things on my list, doing what I needed to do and taking incremental steps forward in the areas that matter most to me.

Each evening around dinner time, while there’s still enough day left to get a few things in (says the woman with no small children), I take stock by jotting down what I did with my day. This backwards to-do list keeps me motivated (inevitably I’ve done more than I think I have), shows me where the real world stuck its nose in and helps me to decide what I want to do with what’s left of my day, based on the energy I have left.

Hey. If a toddler can craft a balanced diet out of grilled cheese and Cheerios, I can cobble together a summer schedule.


Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess

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About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at Catholicmom.com. She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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