Self-Help Success Story: Jenny Thorne: “My Monthly Checklist Is My Secret Weapon”

This self-help success story was contributed by Jenny Thorne.

I love advice. Love getting it. Love giving it. But there’s a problem with advice: We often don’t take it. And usually, it isn’t because we don’t want to, or don’t intend to. Usually, it’s because we forget.

Think about it: How many times have you read a parenting book or a marriage book, then followed its suggestions to the letter—for about a week? After that, our resolve blurs. We focus on other things, and our best intentions move into our peripheral vision, or even into the background.

Which is where my resolution solution comes in.

Often, when there’s something about my life I’d like to change, I first write down all of my related goals. The process of writing and thinking them through clarifies my intentions and makes my lessons more concrete and practical. It also stores them in my subconscious.

Nothing revolutionary so far. Here comes the real trick: I set the list of resolutions aside. A list that long does me no good; there’s no way I’m going to reread them every day. I put them in a place easily remembered and located later, when I’m struggling to carry them out—in my case, in a special file on my computer. Then I distill down the resolutions into a few concrete actions—just one or two. And I add them to my Monthly Checklist. I give myself an X every time I complete one of the actions, and by month’s end, I can see and appreciate my progress.

My Monthly Checklist isn’t your ordinary checklist. It’s an ongoing to-do list, one that incorporates all–and I do mean all–of my personal and professional goals, including writing, parenting, educational, marriage, exercise, spiritual, friendship goals and more. (Yeah—my checklist is really, really long.)

So maybe it’s corny. But it works; I swear it does. The checklist keeps me accountable, and reminds me of what I am working towards.

My goals don’t live in the back of my mind somewhere anymore. They live with me, and I interact with them several times each week.

Here is a partial example of my list. This one is from December of last year:

December 2017:

  • One day of meditation: 30x –
  • One glass of water drank: 30x –
  • One exercise session: 20x –
  • One reading time with kids: 10x –
  • One family chore time: 4x –
  • One TV show or total break time: 4x –
  • One random act of kindness: 4x –
  • One podcast or audiobook for kids: 2x –
  • One hour of educational music for kids: 2x –
  • One dinner with friends: 1x –
  • One family meeting: 1x –

My Monthly Checklist is my secret weapon. Seriously.


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  1. We are on a wavelength! I just started doing monthly checklists in my bullet journal a few weeks ago and I love it. I have things on there to remind me how to handle tantrums and whining, to remind me to be more kind, to be mindful, to make green smoothies, etc. Even if I don’t get to some of the “habits” very often, just looking at the list every evening when I check things off keeps them on my radar.

    But I’m so impressed at the ones you’ve done 30x! I feel like you’re so organized and productive! Can you come organize my life for me? ;-P

    1. I am pretty productive, it’s true. Have to brag: Yesterday I planted seven trees and two blueberry bushes, transplanted another blueberry bush, transplanted five lilacs and uprooted four or five other bushes. One of the best gardening days–heck, best days–of my life. Outside all day with three kids and a few friends. Just awesome. Spring. … I am glad that you have your list. Mine is on my phone. LOVE IT. I want everyone to know about this. I want to write a whole book about it…

    2. BTW, Having some problems commenting on your blog. Will try again when I can think straight. Need to sleep… BUT! I REALLY needed to read your article on whining. THANK YOU. I will let you know if it helps me, too.

      1. Glad you liked it! I usually can’t comment to your blog via wordpress – I have to actually go to your site. Are you trying to comment via wordpress reader? It could be a problem on my end so if you keep having issues in the future, lmk. Thanks! And enjoy your lovely yard with all your plants (if the gardening was at your house). Sounds delightful.

  2. I don’t have much of a monthly checklist. I do have a free program on my pc called “Efficient Reminder Free”. It allows me to keep an ongoing list which is shown on a small viewing window in the right-hand corner of my screen (under everything) that reminds me all the time of upcoming events. You put a start date on when to start reminding and a time of day, then how long you want it to keep remembering this (or no end date). I put all doctors visits, dinner engagements, things to do…on this list. It disappears either when I finish it and click it off or when the reminder time expires. Wonderful program!

    I also keep lists on my PC – like my list of anger: all people who have ever angered me…it began as about 3 and now has 87 (I keep remembering). I mark in the person and the reason (If I need to) and then every few weeks, I read each one and forgive them (including myself on the list) and say a short prayer for them. As the weeks have gone by, I have noticed that I feel little or now anger at many of these people. It is very freeing.

    Great post, Mollie! And, I am reading the book “Dying to Be Me” by Anita Moojani – Great Book thanks for the suggestion. I am learning to be fearless. Take a look at my post today for my LoA story.