How’s your to do list looking today? Is it longer by the end of the day than when you started? Have you stopped looking at it because it is too discouraging? We often think a new fancy app will solve our todo list problem. But maybe we don’t need a new app, rather we need a new list.

Prioritizing the most important things in life has been a bigger challenge ever since I had children. Before having kids I never felt that overwhelmed despite working full time and doing an MBA as a newlywed, with our first home to repair and manage. On week nights I learned to build complex financial models and during the day I would evaluate restructuring proposals. On the weekends we would build a fence, or paint a room. I would write papers and do laundry while my husband wrote his doctorate. My Franklin planner was filled out, prioritized, and always with me. Life was full, but not overwhelming.

When I brought that first eight pound tornado home, everything changed. What I thought was valuable changed. What I thought I could fit into a day changed. My neat financial records became piles of unopened mail. My days were filled with pumping milk in between conference calls and meetings. But the whole time, my heart and mind was filled with only one thing: the little boy in the basement of a federal building on the other side of the national mall.

Kids have a way of forcing us to make choices right from the get-go. Nap when the baby naps or mop the floor? One more bedtime story or pay the bills? Go to the park or catch up on email?

We want to do it all, but how?

Here are five clarifying questions I think you need to ask today when you look at that to-do list.

  1. Do you love doing this? Is it aligned with what you value most?
  2. Are you uniquely suited to do this? Someone else could mop your floor or manage your email list. What are the thing only you can do?
  3. Does it support your long term goals?
  4. What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t do this? (None of us love doing our taxes, but the consequences of not doing it… ouch. But the bake sale? There are plenty of moms who can do it, and you probably won’t get kicked out of school.)
  5. Is this related to a relationship? OR Does this impact someone else?   While something may not be a priority to you, if it is to your spouse or your boss, you want to prioritize the relationship.

And if the list is still too long? Take a deep breath and quiet your thoughts for just a moment, what rises to the top? If I were you, I’d skip mopping the floor today. After all, the muddy feet running in from the park will get it dirty again.

PS: Now that you have some space in that to-do list, why not find out what makes you bloom?