The Difference Between a PowerSheets Tending List and To-Do List

The Difference Between a PowerSheets Tending List and To-Do List

by: Emily Thomas

If you know anything about the PowerSheets® goal planner, you've likely heard of the Tending List. For many Cultivators, the Tending List is the heart of PowerSheets: it's where you live out the goals and dreams you uncover in the Prep Work, tracking your little-by-little steps forward over time. "It's magical!" long-time users say. "It changed my life!" they say. 

For some newer users, though, the Tending List can be confusing. Is it a to-do list? Is it something else? What should I put on my Tending List, anyway?!

We're here to help. In this blog post, we're breaking down the differences between a PowerSheets Tending List and a to-do list. Because in an intentional life, both are needed: they have different purposes, but they're both helpful tools for making what matters happen. Learning how to use both helps you to harness the full power of each.

What is the PowerSheets Goal Planner?

Ahh yes, this is a good place to start! :) The PowerSheets Intentional Goal Planner is unique. It's part 90-day planner, part workbook, part habit tracker, and it's equally about big dreams and brass tacks. Our proven process makes achieving your life goals—the things that really matter to you—as easy as possible. There are three steps:

  • UNCOVER WHAT MATTERS. First, you uncover a vision for your life through a series of guided questions. The Prep Work helps you get clear on where you're headed and set big-picture Yearly Goals.
  • BREAK IT DOWN. Then, you break your Yearly Goals down. This will move you closer to what matters in the big picture and help you plan where you'll spend your time (and where you won't). This will feel so good!
  • LIVE IT OUT. Finally, you'll use your monthly pages to track your progress through simple habits, rhythms, and action steps. One of the monthly pages is the Tending List, which is where you'll see your little-by-little progress add up.

For more on what makes PowerSheets unique, check out this blog post.

PowerSheets goal planner and Season by Season planner

What is a Tending List?

The Tending List is where you live out your goals and what matters most. It's where you commit to a focus for each month, making little-by-little progress on your Yearly Goals by breaking them down into monthly, weekly, and daily action items. Your Tending List is a reminder of what matterswhat you've committed to taking action on in a given monthand a place to track your progress on what matters. 

"Living with intention" can feel vague and hard to track. One of the gifts of the Tending List is giving you a place to see in black and white (or color!) how your little-by-little actions are adding up to real change over time. You'll see the power in embracing progress, not perfection. Tending Lists are rarely checked off perfectly at the end of the month, and that's okay—real change has still happened!

As a key page in the PowerSheets process, most users leave their planner flipped open to their Tending List. An open planner serves as a visual reminder to regularly check in—and take the next step.

What is the difference between a Tending List and a to-do list?

One reason new users can be confused about the difference between a Tending List and a to-do list is because on the surface, they look pretty similar: lists of things to take action on. There are tasks. There are checkboxes. There are dates. We get it!

Here is the key difference: a Tending List is your to-do list for what matters most.

A to-do list is filled with things you need to do—tasks to keep your household running, tasks to fulfill your job or volunteer obligations, tasks to tend to other people's priorities.

A Tending List is filled with things you get to do. It's unlikely anyone will check in with you if you don't do them (unless you have an accountability buddy!), but they're things that matter deeply to you. They help you achieve your goals and they move you toward your big-picture vision for your life.

It's not the task itself that determines whether it goes on a Tending List or a to-do list, but the motivation and history behind it. (And the unique way the Cultivator chooses to use her Tending List!) "Buy a Mother's Day gift for Mom" might go on one person's to-do list and on another's Tending List, and that's okay. You can't do it wrong!

PowerSheets in lap

Do I still need a to-do list?

Yes, absolutely! Most of us will always need a way to remember the things we need to do: errands to run, people to call, plans to make, cards to send. (Especially now that you know your Tending List is not the place for those little everyday tasks!) And in fact, many monthly goals from your Tending List will need to be broken down further into small steps, and a to-do list is a perfect spot for those smaller steps. (Think: a monthly goal to "plan a surprise party," and smaller action items of "design an invitation," "plan food," and "write toast.") 

Whether you're a paper gal or prefer a digital system, there's a way to manage a to-do list that will work for you. Various members of Team Cultivate like to use an Everyday Notebook, a Google Doc, the Season by Season daily planner, and Asana for their to-do lists—find what works for you!

How do I know what to put on my Tending List?

At the end of each month, as you prepare to fill out your Tending List for the fresh month ahead, check in with your big-picture vision. Flip back through your Prep Work and gather action step ideas from your Goal Action Plan pages, Yearly Overview, and Quarterly Refreshes. If there are steps that make sense for the current month or season, jot them down.

Then, streamline and choose a few impactful things to focus on in the month ahead. (If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority!) Given your overall season of life, as well as the commitments already on your calendar, choose the most impactful action steps for the month ahead and write them on your Tending List. Start each action step with a verb for a jolt of energy each time you check in.

Remember: for Cultivators, it's not about doing more. It's not about doing less. It's about doing more of what matters and less of what doesn't.

Finally, consider making your Tending List beautiful with stickers, doodles, or highlighters! Your Tending List is a gift for you, and the more visually appealing it is, the more likely you'll check in regularly. 

We'd love to hear: what to-do list system pairs well with your Tending List? Let us know in the comments!

P.S. For more, don't miss this blog post on daily planning v. goal planning.

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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is Cultivate What Matters' Content Strategist and Writer. With over a decade at Cultivate, Emily loves helping women uncover what matters, set good goals, and live them out with joy. Her free time is spent with her high-school-sweetheart husband and three young kiddos.

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