The Short List

This morning I woke up with my face smashed up against something unyeilding that clearly wasn’t my pillow. And of all the exciting ways a story like that could end… it turns out that, in an effort to clear my mind before I shut the lights off last night, I wrote out a list of “critical” to-do items, and then promptly fell asleep on top of it.


Just so we’re clear, critical to-do items currently number forty-two. They range from paying bills to hitting up the local farmers auction for hay, and renting that bobcat to clear out the rest of the rubble pile before it starts snowing.

I’d estimate I’ve got between one and three weeks to plow through this list, depending on how time-sensitive some of the items are, and how long the weather holds out.

The good news is… I have a list. With the rapidly-fading daylight it’s impossible to find large blocks of time to work on things outdoors in the evening, so I’ve been trying to maximize one-hour increments of time where I can get them. Two days ago I spent an hour working with a flashlight to build a screen for the window of the chicken coop (which wasn’t getting enough daylight to keep the Nugs laying.) Last night I did an extended version of farm chores. Tonight I worked through some long-ignored emails (the result of which is that the new site design for DIYdiva should be launching early next week. Yay? I think yay.)

Usually I work right up until I drop, and my eyeballs don’t see the light of day again until I wake up with my face smashed against a spiral-bound notebook, but every once in a while I find myself with an empty hour at the end of the day. So here’s a question for you guys… what’s the biggest impact you find you can make on your life in just one hour? What’s the thing that makes you most grateful you spent your time that way?

32 Responses

  1. Today, the best hour I spent was split in two. I took my 5 year old to his first guitar lesson (45 minutes) and helped my daughter review for a test (15 minutes). While I did a few fun things today (book club and wrestling class), those were what I was most thankful for.

    Good luck on your list.

  2. Besides coming up to Black Feather Farm to be with my daughter and her crazy animals, it would be giving up my planning period and/or lunch to help kids with math.

    1. Bless you for that, Kit’s Mom! I had two fantastic teachers, one in junior high and one in high school, who did that to help me, the stubborn moth-phobe. They explained, re-explained, and pretty much taught me one on one to make sure that I got it. SO.MUCH.TIME. I am ever thankful.

        1. 🙂
          You know, it’s true. So many kids need one-on-one teaching with math. I am so encouraged to hear that it worked for you!

          1. For those teaching math as parents or as a tutor, I would highly recommend Khan Academy. Its a free site which walks kids through learning every math topic that you can think. Lessons are short and sweet, and the learners get to earn ‘points’ as they learn.

            On the tutor/teacher/parent side, there is extensive analysis and reports to help you target exactly where the kid’s strengths and weaknesses are.

            Fantastic stuff, changed our families outlook on learning math!

  3. If I have a spare hour, I feel the biggest sense of accomplishment if I am able to trim somebody’s feet (I have 3 horses) or am able to clean out the goats’ or chickens’ pen…or clean out a stall or two…or give the dogs a bath…or mow a little bit…or hang a gate I’ve been meaning to hang for 4 months…I guess getting anything done on the farm is an accomplishment!

  4. If I have a spare hour, I try to finish bits of projects I started (re-installing the last storm window after weeks of glazing and painting, polyurethane-ing some shelves from a year ago, cooking corn so I can freeze it for the winter etc) or.. i spend it doing my dishes and trying to wrangle the mountain of crap that collects on my island, or putting away 6 of 40 pieces of clean clothes.
    I think my mentality is trying to find something I can put a dent in.

  5. 1. Put away things (like tools) so I can find them
    2. Clean up work areas so I don’t break a leg (wood shop)
    3. Complete small projects before they turn into big projects (replacing washing machine hoses, fix dripping things)
    4. Run to the store and buy supplies to do things (such as item 3 above) so, when I get that precious larger block of time, I don’t waste half of it running all over hell’s half acre to collect that I need.
    5. Order depleted fasteners, sandpaper, worn tools, etc., online in concert with #4 above

  6. With a spare hour, it’s things like folding and putting away the clean laundry, emptying the dishwasher or dish drain, maybe doing the dishes or getting the laundry started. Also getting some of those tiny little projects out of the way that I keep putting off since it will only take 15 minutes, I can do that later and never seem to get to.

  7. Reading whatever book I have going at the moment. It restores me and reminds me that, as Gandhi put it, there is more to life than increasing its speed.

  8. I think I’m like you in that I like chipping away at the to-do list, even an hour at a time. I took a day off this week to drop the kitty off to get neutered, then spent the day painting the door trim/door to the garage and mowing the lawn. Can’t paint with a curious cat in the house!

  9. cleaning and organizing the shop/house. makes everything else run smoother when i can actually find what i’m looking for and don’t need to move clutter in the middle of a project.

    1. This would so be on my list, but I need to finish the master bathroom renovation before I can indulge. (One of the reasons this list is so long.)

  10. I am doing what I like to do right now….just called a friend on the opposite coast and opened your site. A breather and a reminder that I could have much larger tasks than I do. Your list always calms me and rejuvenates me at the same time. Thanks for that!

  11. Going for a run! It helps me come up with easy solutions to big problems.

    Can you automate anything on your list? Maybe automatic bill payment I try to automate as many of the not serious things as I can – leaves me with more brain power to remember the stuff from my list. 🙂

  12. I so rarely have an entire hour to myself, what with 3 little boys and a big man! When I DO get a little time, I try to reconnect with something that I do just for myself. Whether it’s grabbing a camera and shooting for an hour just for fun, or getting a pedicure, or even just slopping paint on yet another project in the garage. The point is that it’s something I WANT to do, not something I HAVE to do (i.e. The List).

  13. Sex.

    Barring that, a walk with my dogs and fella or — if it’s still light out — an hour of fishing on the river by my house. I never, ever regret being in nature, even in the rain (I live in the Pacific NW, after all). If it’s dark and super miserable out, though, a stiff drink and a good book are great substitutes for a bath.

    However, as so often happens to us DIYers, sometimes I just find another project. If it’s only an hour, I can often put on an audio book (my audible subscription may be the best gift I’ve given myself in a long time) and paint. An hour of painting can accomplish a lot and some days you just need to know you got something done on the place.

  14. I’m a visual person, and my house always accumulates a lot of clutter. (Naturally, I blame my family, but in truth I do have a few problem areas also: clothes, books, magazines.) So, the MOST effective way to make an impact on my life in an hour is to clear off an area where my eyes settle multiple times a day – like the kitchen windowsill, my desk, the coffee table – and then, every time I lay eyes on it, I feel really happy and satisfied. Even sweeping leaves off the back porch, which is always visible from the center of the house, is a visual boost to my mood.
    I’d imagine, if you can identify whatever gives you a similar do-once-enjoy-repeatedly payback, that’s a good way to spend your hour.

  15. Heh… I read your blog. After that, I watch videos on Youtube to learn how to do something newly necessary, like fix an electric fence or troubleshoot my horse trailer brakes locking up. TG for people who share their knowledge on the Internet. You rock! 😀

  16. 1 hour or less of daylight remaining – tree/bush trimming. Grab shears and off I go, haul stuff to the burn pile and it’s all cleaned up. So much needs work and every little bit makes my house look a little less like a haunted house. That was someone’s first impression of my house. Totally the image I was going for…

    After dark – yoga or craft room projects. My crafting to do list is the only list to exceed my house project list. And it’s nice to sit with some tea and quiet music and wind down with a little progress on whatever I’ve got going. And yoga just fixes whatever terribleness I’ve done to myself throughout the day/week.

  17. I know this is an old post, but just found the blog and love it so much that I am reading it backwards to get all caught up.

    What makes the most impact on my life in one hour. A nice… hot… BATH. I know – YOU know what I am talking about. As I write this, your master bath demo is taking place, so soon you will have that bath again!

    When we moved into our house, the master bath was half demolished and no tub. After one week of small showers in the spare bath, I installed the tub… of course, we didn’t have walls or anything else for almost a year, but I could navigate around the rubble and have a bath. Yep… I am THAT dedicated to a hot bath.

    Finally after a year, my master bath was done.
    Here is photos if anyone wants to see:

    Can’t wait to see the beautiful bath DIYDiva will have.

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.