Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stessing about the "To Do" List

I'd like to think that I can get things done but sometimes I fall short of reaching my goals. I aim high ("I'm going to organize the entire storage room tonight!" or "I'm going to finish the entire craft bag today!") and sadly do not meet those goals. I have been giving this some thought though and here is what I came up with:
  1. Is my goal too high? Am I aiming on doing everything in one evening or day? Perhaps I should break it down into manageable parts and get each of those done before moving forward.
  2. Do I like keeping a "to-do" list, without actually doing it? I like having a list of things to do but that doesn't mean that I should do them. I just like to know that it is there.
  3. Do I focus on the things that I'd like to get done instead of the priorities? Definitely. Ironing clothes versus stenciling something, guess what comes first.
  4. Do I get angry at myself for not getting something done? Of course. Sometimes I crawl into bed then remember that I was supposed to do something that evening. Then I kick myself (figuratively) and make a mental note to do it tomorrow...and spend the rest of the night thinking about it. Is that really necessary?
  5. Do I multi-task? All the time. I don't have the patience to wait on something to finish, so I start something else. Before I know it, I have 10 things on the go. I'm lucky if I can remember what I was doing from the beginning again.
  6. Must I do it all myself? Are you guilt of thinking that you are the only one that can do it right, thus you must do it yourself?
What are some strategies to change this thinking?

I seem to be a person who loves a to do list. Seriously. I love having this immense list of things to do because it keeps my brain active. I am constantly thinking of things that I have to do although they are not necessarily in order by priorities. Here are some strategies that I will be trying to get things done:
  1. Write it all down: open a Word document and write down the entire to-do list. Use only one document. Then, categorize it: priority (paying rent, ironing, laundry, etc.), work, upcoming events (ex. Christmas presents), hobbies, etc.
  2. Do the priorities first: instead of stenciling something, I should focus on getting the laundry done. I mean, I will love a stenciled cup towel but I will need clothes to wear tomorrow. Besides, there is no reason that I can't stencil while the laundry is being done, a ha!
  3. Pick action days: I like this idea from Get-it-Done Guy. Take a day (say, Saturday) and save the non-priority to do list for that day. Do the chores (develop pictures, pick up super glue, etc.) and then mow through anything else that needs to get done. Whatever gets done that day gets done but instead of focusing on what didn't get done, focus on what did.
  4. Focus on one task at a time: that will be painful for me, but there are some things that can be multi-tasked (ex. dust living room while dishwasher is going) and some that cannot (ex. washing the car and mowing the lawn). I have started to stop myself whenever I have too many things on the go and I focus on one thing at a time. Instead of doing up Christmas cards over many nights, it did it all in two nights. Then it's done!!
  5. Separate everyday tasks from other tasks: everyday tasks are the things like doing dishes, vacuuming and laundry versus re-organizing the storage closet, knitting a scarf, and mending a pair of socks. Make up a routine for the everyday stuff so that it gets done on a regular basis so that you can separate the two.
  6. Stop thinking that you are the only one that can do it: I am very guilty of this kind of thinking. Sometimes I think that I should do it because I would do it better than someone else. However, I am learning to delegate tasks to someone else. This does mean letting go of some control but expecting to do everything myself is ridiculous. It might not be done the same way but (a) the task is done and (b) because it was done a different way I might have learned something that I hadn't thought of before.
  7. Applaud the tasks that are complete instead of focusing on those that are not complete: so you didn't finish organizing the CDs tonight. Change your thinking and remind yourself that the task is half done. Or, focus on the long list of things that are now done instead of berating yourself on those that are not. Positive thinking is reinforcing and will lead to you getting more done.
What are some things that I have learned?

This year I was running an experiment on getting things done. I wrote down what I wanted to accomplish and worked on doing it. I got tired of saying "I will do this" and moved to a more affirmative position of "I will do this task this weekend". Here are some things that I learned:
  1. Check in with the master to do list once per month: since I had written it down, I could check it off once the task was done and reread the list to see what I could now work on. After 12 months, the number of checkmarks is surprising -- and encouraging.
  2. Accept that some things will never get done: I have good intentions on writing something down to do but that doesn't always mean that it will get done. It might. The list serves as a reminder. Some things are out of my control (ex. composting in Ottawa apartments hasn't arrived yet) and some things are (finish Christmas card list). Do what I can do, keep tabs on what I cannot.
  3. Use the written list as a "brain dump": once it is written down, stop thinking about it. I used to cycle things around all day thinking "I really want to do this" or "This weekend I want to do this". Once it was written down, I wrote when I wanted to do it then emptied my brain of those thoughts. It relieved a lot of stress because now I can focus on other things (work, hubby, cooking supper, sleeping, etc.) without constantly reminding myself that I have to do something.
  4. Put some obvious things on the to do list: for example, "Spending time with husband". It's funny how often an evening is spent just watching TV and we think that this counts as time together. No, time together is going out on dates and such. It seems obvious but once you write it on the list, it becomes more real.

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