Don’t laugh, but my favorite thing to do as a child was make a list. I loved putting things into alphabetical order or organizing items into something neat and orderly. This love has served me well in my career as an administrative assistant.
Obviously, a to-do list is very much my go-to method of managing things. For years, I had this massive list that held anything I needed to do or wanted to do. It listed both things that needed to be done that day, mixed with things that should be done within the year and everything in between.
As several things got crossed off, I would rewrite it into another neat list which I added to as I thought of more things to do.
This anything and everything to-do list was carried around with me everywhere. I would reference it several times a day. I prided myself that it kept me focused and that nothing ever was forgotten or fell through the cracks.
During the time of the massive to-do list, even though I was feeling organized and in control, I was also very irritable, constantly stressed and never able to relax.
One weekend my daughter noticed and said I should rest and do nothing. I displayed my enormous to do list as absolute proof that I couldn’t just “do nothing”. Her response was simple and unexpected. She said, “So? Throw it away”.
Defensiveness immediately arose in me. I needed this list. This is how everything got accomplished. If I didn’t have the list then I wouldn’t remember everything that needed to be done. I stood solid with this argument for a couple more months.
However, a seed had been planted. Maybe she was onto something. If I’m constantly looking at a never ending list of things to do, no wonder I’m always stressed out and never able to relax. It never gets any shorter. Sure things get crossed off, but inevitably they are replaced with something else.
Yeah, she was definitely onto something. So one day, I did it. I just threw it away. Immediately I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders. This felt good!
Full disclosure, I went about three months without any kind of list, until the day when something actually did fall through the cracks. I forget the particulars of what didn’t get done, either I forgot to pay something or ended up having to find something at the last minute.
However, I wasn’t ready to run back to my method of the massive to-do list.
Instead I opted for a new approach. I put everything I could think of onto a calendar. If it was something without a definitive date that it needed to get done by, I gave it one.
Now each day, I think of three things I want to get accomplished, just three. If there is something already on the calendar for that day, it becomes one of them and I add two more.
The three things can be something at work or something personal. It could be something big, like rewrite part of a manual or something really small, like clean out the litter box.
As long as I get those three things done, then I am able to feel that I have had a productive day.
Some days I’m motivated and end up getting more than three things done. Other days, I barely make it through the three things. But I feel no guilt in kicking up my feet for the rest of the evening, because everything set for that day was accomplished.
It works because three is a manageable amount of things to get done in a day, and feel that you are still being productive.
I think a lot of women fall victim to this idea that everything has to be perfect all the time or we aren’t successful as women. Fuck that!! You do the best you can everyday and that is more than enough.
Is my house always clean? No. Am I super productive everyday at work? No. Am I still getting things done at the last minute? Yes, every once in a while that still happens. But I’m doing the best I can without losing my mind in the process.
So what about you? Anyone else out there a master list maker like myself? Have any methods of keeping track of stuff without losing your sanity? Leave a comment below.
“Do Nothing” just got added to my calendar.