Thursday, June 7, 2012

Facing Down the To-Do List as Part of A Year Project

I love lists. I love the idea of lists. I love their order and formality. I love their optimism; it takes much strength to believe order can be forced from chaos. But lists can often be a doubled-edged sword. On the one hand they can help to organize but on the other they can overwhelm. Unfortunately my relationship with my to-do list has been a perfect manifestation of this duality.

I start out with the best of intentions. The cacophony of demands needing my immediate attention threatens to deafen me. I attempt to silence these demands by starting a list- simple. I think about the most important demand of that day and then list them accordingly. It starts off small but then before I know it the list has grown to two or more pages.

Now see this is where delusion enters the picture. I'm the product of 80's culture that indoctrinated me into believing I am a SuperWoman. I can do it all- "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up and in the pan" kind of thinking. So I look at his multi-page list and think if I just move fast enough I can get it all done.

And I make a great start... I might actually make it to 10 or 15 things marked off of the lists but the costs exacted for these accomplishments is too high. I'm exhausted. I race around like a blur. I try and continue the list the next day, trying to achieve even more "Mission Accomplished" success but it's impossible because more has been added and I see no end to the exhaustion and the frenzy of activity. Then I crash and burn and enter I period where I get things done in a random haphazard manner.

Today, I'm bringing back the "New User-Friendly" To-Do List. It has a reasonable limit of 5 things. Anything I get done beyond those 5 things is just icing on the cake and definitely requires a treat. At least one of these things has to be from my "Big Scary To Do List" I keep in a word document. These are all those things that hit you in the middle of going through life (make a doctor's appointment, call the plumber, take the car in for an oil change, etc.).

But more important than instituting a limit is allowing myself room to stretch out a task as needed. It's incredibly comforting to know that some tasks don't have to be finished in just one day. For instance, it took me two days to clean the inside of my car. I could have done it in one day but I wouldn't have been able to clean it as thoroughly or take-care of my regular workload which goes beyond the to-do list (cooking dinner, laundry, picking up and transporting, dishes, etc.) Now I can take one more thing off my "Big Scary To-Do List."

So far I'm moving along smoothly and relaxed. Is anyone else struggling with their to-do lists?

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