My four-year-old loves to play a game she calls “checklist.” I write a series of tasks on her favorite monkey-face shaped notebook, and she draws a checkmark next to each completed assignment.
- Draw a flower
- Spell your name
- Hop five times
- Sing the ABCs
She gets this from her mother. I’m a checklist addict. I have lists for everything—groceries, housekeeping, Christmas gifts, party plans. My own trusty notebook sits on our kitchen countertop, catching random assignments for each day.
- Wash the sheets
- Sign permission slip
- Thaw hamburger
- Call Mom
What does this say about me? I’m organized. I’m methodical. Or I’m flaky enough to forget things if I don’t write them down. Running lists help me spew thoughts onto paper instead of cramming them inside my daydreaming, over-analytical brain. For me, checklists are a form of mental freedom.
But they’re also a crutch.
I like to cross things off the list. So I spend a lot of time chasing immediate to-do’s instead of long-term, important stuff.
- I did the laundry, but I let my child’s High Five magazines pile up, unread.
- I took pictures of the girls diving in the leaf pile, but I haven’t updated our photo books in six months.
- I paid the bills, but I’ve been meaning for half a year now to create a chore chart designed to teach our elder daughter fiscal responsibility. She has yet to earn a single quarter. And it’s my fault.
The bills have a due date. Life lessons do not. So the urgent crowds out the important, day in and day out, until my menial tasks are accounted for but I’ve lost opportunities to train my children, to invest in my marriage, to improve my own well-being.
What if my checklist looked like this?
- Take a romantic weekend getaway to a log cabin
- Train for a 5K
- Scour the Bible for examples of gratitude, humility, and sacrifice—then use them to illustrate these values for my children
These are things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. But they get shoved to the bottom of the list because they’re not immediately attainable. The pots have to get scrubbed, the preschool snack has to be divided into baggies, and somebody has to run to the store to buy more diapers. So these are the tasks I tackle first. Until they’re the only tasks I tackle at all.
God has a checklist, too. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven—a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6–7).
- Give up
- Throw away
- Be silent
Do you see the beauty of the pattern? It’s not about choosing between this and that, urgent or important. There is a time to do both. My mistake lies in consistently tipping the agenda too heavily toward one side.
I’ll confess, I was on a tight schedule this morning. When my daughter came skipping toward me with that monkey-face notebook, my eyes darted to the dirty dishes in the sink. But those verses from Ecclesiastes popped to mind, and I dropped the dish rag for ten minutes. It was the best game of checklist we’ve ever played.
Will you join me? What can you postpone this week in order to focus some time on the stuff that matters for the long haul? There is a time for everything. Let’s give our calendars a chance to prove it.
- Do not vacuum
- Make a craft with the kids instead
- See what God does!