Make A List – and get your life back.

I don’t tend to venture too much into the dizzy realms of new year resolutions. I always find you end up a little disheartened and jaded when they don’t come to pass. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you‘ve failed by the second week of the year. I definitely don’t say I’m going to achieve anything in particular in January. For me, the first month of the year is just to reflect, plan and revive the soul. None of this dry January, or Veganuary nonsense. What even is that? It’s often a dark old month and I need every vice I can get my hands on legally to get through to February. I can’t be doing with denying myself simple pleasures in the darkest month of the year. I’m fully aware that I’ve got to lose a little weight and I know that I need to drink less and exercise more. Let’s think about that when it’s a little warmer though, shall we? What I do start though is a list. Well, lots of lists, actually!

Quote from The Essential Planner - The only way to live is by accepting each moment as an unrepeatable miracle.
I absolutely love this quote in The Essential Planner by Emily Rollings.

Lists are the way forward if you want to feel good in January

Lists are the only way I’m able to achieve all the things I want to do. They are the only way I can remember everything and the best way to keep my spirits up throughout the year. Gradually ticking off things that I have done feels so good. I’ll let you into a little secret: with every list that I start I add at least two things I’ve already done and a few that are super easy. It tricks the mind into thinking that you are indeed god of all list makers and deserve a medal just for being alive.

Make time for you

It’s so incredibly easy after the festive season to get bogged down with daily life, making Christmas feel like a distant memory. Life is so incredibly fast paced now, there seems to be so little time anymore. It’s so important to make space in your life for the unexpected, the surprise, or just a moment of peace. A space to breathe and think and to allow things to happen. Writing things down, creating a list, can be the best way to make that space. It’s not all about the jobs that need to be done. It’s also about you and remembering that you and your health and wellbeing matter.

I definitely did not do this last year. My body and mind really suffered as it was all about the house and garden. So, in 2023 I want to make sure that I remember that I matter to. The house and garden look great, but I’m a bit of a mess, actually. So it’s time to think about looking after myself and writing down what I want out of life.

Don’t start thinking I’m super organised. I’m really not! That’s exactly why I need my lists and without them I would truly be lost. Usually, it’s just a scrap of paper I’ve found on which I write my goals. It gradually gets tattier throughout the year, so that by December it’s begging to be euthanised humanely.

I was told recently about Matthew McConaughey‘s list habits. If you think I’m crazy, wait until you hear this! He writes a list for everything. I mean, everything! He does a daily list and adds things like: get up, have breakfast, shower, walk the dog! I kid you not my friends. Sounds like he’s totally off his rocker doesn’t he? But, I can see where he’s coming from. By adding in things that you damn well know you are going to do and ticking them off, you set yourself up for a successful day. I mean, you’re already winning by 8.30am! It has to be a good day ahead, right?

The Essential Planner

However, this year I have a fancy planner. It’s called The Essential Planner by Emily Rollings and has a lovely by line on the front that reads: “Plan less, live more.” The planner is full of inspirational quotes and clever little areas like: monthly goals, slow time, for myself this week and space to think. It’s now on sale and definitely not too late to start it. I heard about it via the wonderful @bylaurenmcdermott – so thank you Lauren for introducing me to it. If you don’t follow Lauren, then she is an absolute must for wholesome lifestyle, beauty, home and cooking.

Lists are how I got through all the work last year

Last year’s To Do List was completely insane. I truly didn’t think I’d get through half of it. However, if you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I worked my socks off and pretty much ticked most things off. There’s still loads to do though, so there will be another lengthy list for this year.

If it hadn’t been for my lists though, I would have found myself in a complete muddle. Running a holiday let full time, writing for my blog, being present almost daily on the gram and ploughing through a relentless list of DIY tasks at the house is really hard to keep track of. Add to that running a household and organising our daily lives and it can all get too much very quickly.

The main To Do List

So, I started with an over-arching To Do List. This would form the framework for the year. Each point on the list was a large goal, such as designing and building the kitchen, or erecting the summer house and canopy. I did add in one or two things that I’d nearly completed, just so I didn’t get downhearted before I’d even started. Every time I finished something on the list I went back to my scrappy piece of paper with it on and gave it a whopping great big tick. It’s so important to actually physically tick it off as it empowers you psychologically to carry on with the next task. The list, in effect, stops everything feeling like it’s a mountain you can’t climb. It makes each stage of your journey manageable.

Break it down!

The next stage is to spend some time thinking about each task on your list and how you are actually going to achieve your goals. Break each point down into smaller lists. I created three categories for each task: Planning, During and Snagging. You’re probably thinking: “omg this man is completely insane! He’s some kind of crazy OCD fruit loop!” But, I promise this works! If all you have is your over-arching list, then everything else is just in your head and you will definitely make mistakes and they could be costly. If you are dealing with contractors, like I was, then it is imperative that you write things down. They will want to know what you’ve decided on for the worktop, for example, or the colour of the window frames. They will need to know way in advance too, which is why the Planning list is the most important one.

The Planning List

Do your homework and take your merry time with this stage. Get things right while it’s quiet. For the kitchen renovation, I already knew where every single aspect of the design was coming from before we started. That’s not to sound clever and smug. It’s the only way I can work. It helps me out so much as otherwise I would be a stressed out wreck. It’s good to be honest with yourself.

By the way, lists don’t have to be in written form. They can be a drawing, or a design. In January last year I drew out the basic design for our garden. It was a way of putting my ideas down on paper as a visual aid. The design allowed me to use it as a reference for when I actually started digging in the garden. It was so incredibly useful.

The Planning List reminded me of everything I needed to think about in advance. It gave me a chance to explore and make good decisions. It meant that by the time I got to the During List I was relatively calm. I could then truly concentrate on building and fitting the kitchen and, of course, keep juggling the other ninety billion plates in the air.

The During List

At one point this year during late summer, I was dealing with the kitchen renovation, the orangery build and starting on the loft bedroom all at the same time. Without my lists it would have been a disaster. My During Lists enabled me to see a breakdown of everything that needed to be achieved in order for the task to be a success. At this point I had three separate During Lists for each task. It kept my mind in some kind of order and stopped me from having hissy fits. Although, don’t think for a second that I didn’t have my moments. Mr C, my hubby definitely knows that!

The Snagging List

This is the one I love the most, as you know you’re near the end and there’s probably a few things on the During List that haven’t been done. So, you can add those straight away. Please, please add a few that are about to get done almost immediately. You’ll feel so much better.

This is the list that includes everything left to make the job perfect, whatever that job is, be it creating a kitchen, or losing weight. There’s one thing that you absolutely must include in this list and it’s the final point on the list. Celebrate! Even if it’s just a quick cheers with your mates, it is so important to acknowledge that you did it! You made it! Give that trouper a medal!

Don’t forget about you!

More than anything else though, make sure you write down what you want from 2023. I don’t just mean chores and renovations. What do YOU really want? What have you been aching to do that you haven’t done yet, as there just hasn’t been the time? Do you want to make space to read more? Are you interested in joining that flower arranging class, or doing that sky dive? Perhaps you just want to have more time to be with your family and be present, relishing the moment, an unrepeatable miracle. It won’t happen unless you make it happen. It’s not the only way, but for me, writing things down is the best way to solidify your plans and goals. It’s proof of a moment in time when you began your journey. Make sure you record it.

JP Clark signature

If you liked this, then why not read: What Is Mindfulness?


  1. Chriss
    January 22, 2023 / 9:11 am

    Excellent post JP! Inspiring!😘✍️✔️

    • JP Clark
      January 23, 2023 / 2:27 pm

      Thanks Chris’s and here’s to a great 2023.

  2. Julie Vannan
    January 22, 2023 / 12:17 pm

    Lovely jp-well written! I hope you have a wonderful 2023! 😊💙🤍xx

    • JP Clark
      January 23, 2023 / 2:26 pm

      And you too. Thank you

  3. Mary Katherine
    January 22, 2023 / 1:04 pm

    Brilliant post as usual, JP! As soon as I saw that planner, I knew Lauren was involved (I adore her, can’t remember which of you I found first, but the other soon followed – GRATEFUL). I’m couldn’t live without a list (ok, multiple lists), and have both a planner for the year and a succession of hard cover notebooks that accompany me everywhere. The awesome progress on your house is proof positive on what you can accomplish in one year. I have LOVED following every step. Do prioritize restoration work on yourself this year, friend. Can’t wait to see what you get up to next!

    • JP Clark
      January 23, 2023 / 2:26 pm

      Mary Thank you so much for such a lovely comment.

  4. Theresa Connolly
    January 22, 2023 / 1:22 pm

    What’s perfect read on a Sunday morning thank you JP as always

    • JP Clark
      January 23, 2023 / 2:26 pm

      Thank you Theresa. Xx

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