To Do Lists – For Parents!

If you feel like you are always overwhelmed by how much is on your to-do list, you may be making a critical mistake and not even realize it.

As the creator of The Trip Clip, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I love to-do lists. I drive my husband nuts, but I am endlessly creating to-do lists for myself, for him, for our kids, for our vacations – you name it.

If you feel like you are always overwhelmed by how much is on your to-do list, you may be making a critical mistake and not even realize it.

Somewhere along the line, I realized I had a problem. Not with all the to-do lists – to-do lists are awesome, everyone should use them! My problem was that my to-do lists were always either in the wrong place, or visible only to me.

If I wrote them down on paper, then I didn’t have access to them in the car, or at the grocery store when something new occurred to me. I kept emailing myself tasks and then forgetting to transfer them onto my paper list.

If I wrote them on my computer, my husband couldn’t see them. And trust me, it is IMPORTANT for him to see my to do lists, otherwise all the tasks are “my tasks” instead of “our tasks”. This is a small but critical distinction. Running a household is a big job, and can and should be shared!


So we decided to try creating a Shared To-Do list online. We chose a simple solution: Google Documents. We created a new document and then shared it between our individual Google accounts.

Here’s why I like Google Docs:

  • It’s flexible: Fancy to-do list Apps mean well, but they don’t give me the flexibility to format my lists just the way I want to.
  • Super easy sharing: My husband and I both have Google accounts already, and sharing the document couldn’t be easier. If you don’t have a Google account, it’s super easy to sign up for one.
  • No special software: We didn’t need to install any special software – either at home or at work (my husband can easily access our to do list just by logging into google from the office). You can access your documents from any browser.
  • Access from our phones: We both have access to the list at all times from our phones.

This may seem like a pretty minor thing to be writing a blog post about, but for me, this move to an online Shared To-Do List was a major event. Life changing. Because it turns out that a huge amount of stuff that needs doing for the kids, for the house, for our family, all lived in my head. And when it was in only my head, my husband couldn’t help me with it.

The simple act of moving the list online made it “our” list. As long as I keep it up to date (and I do – I really do) then my husband can always see the myriad of things I’m tracking.  And he can help.

When we look through the list together, my husband might see an errand that is close to his work, and offer to do it. Or maybe there is a complicated task, like “make  an appointment to get the kids’ passports renewed”. So  we’ll work together do do some preparation:

  • We’ll find the phone number to call and put it right into the Shared To Do List
  • We’ll talk through when we can conveniently go, and write down the times that work for both of us and the kids.
  • We’ll figure out who is going to call, and they’ll add a reminder to their calendar for the next day
  • And when that person makes the call, they’ll have all the information they need right at their fingertips in the Shared To-Do List.

My husband also liked being able to add things to “my” to-do list. Typically on a weekend I would have a huge list of things in my head that I wanted to get done and I would direct our weekend activities. But the things HE wanted to get done weren’t in my head, so we’d never get to them. By adding his own things to the Shared To-Do list, we gave equal consideration to the things both of us wanted to get done each weekend.

calendarWe quickly realized the benefits for both of us if we took the time to go through the Shared To-Do list on a regular basis. After trying a few different things, we ended up scheduling a To-Do List Appointment for every Thursday night, just to make sure the list is up to date, and both of us see it. It’s like date night but not as fun!


And now, when either of us runs across something during the day that we know needs to get done that weekend, or shared with the other person, we pop it on the Shared To-Do List and we’re sure to remember to talk about it at our weekly to-do list appointment.

party_hatHave you ever noticed how a simple birthday party invitation turns into a bunch of tasks for you?  These invitations usually come just to me, so my husband would only be vaguely aware of the upcoming party. But now, I make a note on the Shared To-Do list and at the next meeting we make sure it’s on everyone’s calendar, figure out who is driving there and back, decide on a present, and figure out who will go buy it. And suddenly, every birthday party doesn’t fall solely in my lap, and my husband is an equal partner in the all the pieces instead of just driving there when I direct him to at the last minute, grabbing a present he had no knowledge of.

I have a lot of friends who have complained over the years about how many of the odds and ends of running a household and raising children fall on them. They want help, but aren’t sure how to get it. The list of stuff never fits neatly in one bucket, and it’s a billion tiny little small things that are ever-changing and it usually seems easier to just do them than try to share them. Interestingly, their spouses often truly want to help, but don’t know how.

A Shared To-Do list is a very simple thing, but it can go a long way towards finding more equity in handling what adds up to be a huge chunk of the work involved in raising kids and running a household. And you may find that your spouse is more than willing to help, they just haven’t been able to figure out how to insert themselves into your system. A Shared To-Do list makes your system more transparent, and you may be surprised by how much help you can get once it’s clear what needs doing. You may also be surprised by the awesome birthday present suggestions your spouse has that never would have occurred to you!

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