Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When I'm terrorised by my to-do list

I thought I'd learnt this already but I evidently need reminding. That I'm not a slave to my to-do lists. A list is supposed to serve me, not the other way around.

But there's a lot of good stuff that I know that I don't live.

I have such a love-hate relationship with my daily lists. It's as satisfying to grab these pesky thoughts fluttering around my head and pin them onto a piece of paper as it is to crisply cross the items off - call x, send birthday card for y, school mufti day, pay the phone bill.

But I only think I kill those pesky thoughts. In fact they aren't the real problem, they are only the offspring of the anxiety in my heart. And that I can't quite kill off.

Not by myself anyway.

It all starts out fine. This time I was worried about forgetting something so on top of my daily list I made a meta list of the random things I needed to do as a priority and the day I needed to have them done by.

There were ten items on the list. Each was important, and seemed doable within the week.

The first item was to enrol my two littlest into the local occasional care centre. I had got a call two weeks ago telling me I'd come up on their waiting list for membership and I was afraid at this rate they'd figure I didn't want it anymore and offer it to someone else.

Do forms tonight, take tomorrow I had written.

That night, when I laid the baby onto my bed (he won't sleep in his cot!) it was with the intention of going straight from there to my desk. But he looked so sweet there that I lay next to him for a second - and of course only woke up very groggily when my husband came to bed at nearly midnight.

I was annoyed at myself, annoyed at him for letting me have the rest I obviously needed. "I've got things to do," I moaned.

Those forms were still on my mind the next day. I still hadn't crossed it off the day after, and every time I looked at that list I got a little stab of anxiety at seeing very little crossed off it at all.

Finally I got a chance to go to the centre, and guess what? There was no urgency, the director told me. There is actually another thing they need from me, a copy of a doctor's letter, and I still haven't got around to doing those forms and it's ok.

Why do I let a list that I have written myself, which is just a group of lines and squiggles, determine whether I have a 'good' ie. productive day, and a 'bad' ie. unproductive one?

Why do I get so discouraged and feel like a failure if I haven't achieved things on my lists?

Why do I get so puffed up and proud of myself when I 'get things done'.

Why do I keep letting myself believe that the doing of these types things are more important than the one thing necessary?

To be. To really, authentically, be really, me, in this moment. And to stay close to my lovely ones.

The most important things I do are not the kinds of things I tend to write onto lists.

Yes, I remember this.

Maybe the most important thing I do tomorrow is to take my boy for a walk to look for big sticks. Like I did the week before this latest manic list episode.

 I noticed the sky.

Yep, tomorrow I will notice the sky again. I don't need to list that.

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  1. I can relate, I am feeling overwhelmed by the little tasks at the moment, don't even get me started on the big, important tasks. Sigh, so I am starting anew and going to have an early night and begin a new list tomorrow!

  2. Oh Marilyn,

    I had a break through about to do lists just this morning. Go to my blog and read the entry called mission statement. I know what my to do lists were missing now.

    I hope it can help you too.

    Oh and doing things that are not on the list are just as important as doing the ones that are. Obviously you already have realised that.

  3. I have so many things that I need to do... and sometimes writing them down give me a clear sense as to where i am and where it is that I want to go... but then at other times, they don't serve me well... and it kills me then, a sharp anxiety arises from within and it makes me feel so scared. There is one thing still bugging me as I write this and it bugged me last night so much that I could not sleep till 3. It came to extent where I couldn't just take it anymore because i was angry at myself that I have not finished it... I think I cried in frustration and then finally something happened... I calmed down, took deep breaths, and I decided I would do something about it... one small step at least.

  4. Thanks for commenting ladies, yes, baby steps is key I think so we don't get overwhelmed. There's only so much we can do in a day!

  5. "To be. To really, authentically, be really, me, in this moment. And to stay close to my lovely ones."

    Wow - we should all have this as #1

    I sometimes feel a slave to lists inside my head and those written down (when I do bother).

    Your post reminded me too of the simple things in life we never put on a list ...walk the kids to the park or play with kids.

    When I manage to write a list I love crossing things off ...
    always write eat 'chocolate' at the top and you will be sure to get one thing done.

    PS I love reading your expressive writings and the way you describe things 'crisply cross the items off ' ... a pleasure to read.

  6. Trish I'm going to put 'eat chocolate' at the top of my lists from now on - that is brilliant!


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