12/05/2012 05:53 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Are You On Your Own List?

I know lots of people from all walks of life. Across the board they're all very busy, most have long lists of things they need to accomplish. Some of those things, like folding the laundry, are ongoing, while others are more pressing -- like picking up children or paying the bills. Some people have their lists written down, others use their smartphones or iPads, and others keep the list running in their heads. Wherever it is, I'm fairly confident that your list is long and probably doesn't get done in one day.

But there are often things on the list that must, and do, get completed. These tasks usually have an expiration date. For example, that doctor's visit on the calendar gets done on the day and time it's supposed to because it can be a big hassle to reschedule, right? To me, those items are the easy ones because there is some type of external variable in place -- you're at the mercy of someone else's schedule. Similarly, tax day and that end-of-semester paper aren't negotiable.

All too often though, our lists revolve around making sure other things and people are well cared for, but don't include caring for ourselves. Sure, the haircut is on there, but that's not really what I'm referring to. I'm talking about doing things that rejuvenate and restore us. You know, things that are often the first to go when we get busy, stressed, sick or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, it's also the stuff that keeps us sane, focused, effective, and good at whatever it is we want to be good at.

I'll use myself as an example. Prior to having our last child this year and losing our spare room, my husband and I meditated nightly for 20 minutes. I know it doesn't sound like a long time, but we found it deeply relaxing. While both of our lists include taking care of ourselves in other ways, not meditating has taken its toll on our ability to manage stress, respond calmly to external demands, and stay focused. We both feel the difference.

I used to use that time to allow issues to percolate and tease themselves out. Without the short, daily meditations, it now takes me longer to work through problems or tricky situations, which is inherently less effective. So much so that we are looking to carve a meditation space out of our closet!

So, I invite you to determine those things that help keep you sane, and not only put them on your list, but make them as important as the things that have a hard-and-fast expiration date. Making sure you have to-dos for yourself will help make you more productive, focused, and effective. It doesn't take a lot of physical room (picture my closet), but it may give you a lot more room internally. Or, if that item is exercise, you may take up less room after a time!

For more by Wendie Trubow, click here.

For more on stress, click here.