The Set Up:
I both espouse and practice a 6-9 item To Do list for the day to force myself to focus on what matters the most for my day and because I get just as much satisfaction over finishing a short To Do list as I do over finishing an excessively long one and I have a much higher chance of actually finishing it. A typical To Do list for me looks like this:
Today, since it's the weekend, I decided to try something a little different and try going back to one of my old haunts: the "Too many things to possibly get done in one day" list.
I've been preaching against using these lists for a LONG time, but it's also been so long since I've used one of these lists that I really don't have any recent experience to speak of as to why they are so dangerous to use for true time management masters!
My first observation was "OMG! This list takes forever to write out!" My second observation was "Maybe this should be a 'Weekend To Do List' instead of just a 'Saturday To Do List.'"
Hmm....starting with feelings of overwhelm...not the best way to start my day!
But the nice part is, once that was done, I actually felt pretty proud of all those nice, neat little boxes to check off and the very detailed information on what to do. My list for the weekend, looked like this:
In fact, looking at the list, I could see several items that could be knocked off the list in a matter of seconds and instantly took care of them so that it looked like I'd already accomplished something for the day.
I felt that small rush of hormones for "success!" Followed by instant guilt over "You didn't really accomplish anything today Steph..." which I instantly began reasoning with myself over how I actually HAD and I should be proud of the small accomplishments. I've always been wary of that mindset because it tends to focus on small accomplishments that don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, so I discounted myself again....
Basically....the first thing this list led me to do was fight with myself...what an auspicious start to my day! </sarcasm>
At the salon...
While driving to the salon, I felt twinges of anxiety because I'd spent an hour doing things that weren't on my To Do list....such as showering, putting on make-up, getting breakfast and driving to the salon. I have this MASSIVE to do list, and I was hardly making any impact.
I don't like feeling anxious!
This is making me acutely aware of every minute passing....and because I'm sitting in a salon chair right now, I don't have access to my list...so I don't feel like I can actually do ANYTHING, even though I've got my computer in front of me, because I don't have the list to check what I'm supposed to be doing. So I'm sitting here with dead-time on my hands. Never a great way to make my day feel productive!
Back at the house and sitting down to knock out pieces of this Endless To Do list....I've knocked one more item off the list, so that's cool I guess.... but I'm not happy about how anxious it's made me to get started and make things happen.
I keep thinking back to how my weeks get a little wild, and how out of control frustrated I would be right now since I'm sure I would have had something come up to keep me from getting back to the house and I would not be able to get all of this done today....As it was, just getting through normal Saturday traffic on the way back was a touch more annoying and may have engendered a little more yelling than normal!
But now I get to start knocking stuff off the list, right? This part should be good!!
-20 minutes later-
SERIOUSLY considering not finishing this...this list is making me irritable! Just snapped at the dog, and noticed that I'm actively avoiding working on my list because it's overwhelming to look at it....
I'm feeling a little sick to my stomach...I almost skipped lunch because it wasn't on the list but got my head back on straight and fixed myself some...but I'm feeling completely overwhelmed...just seems like it doesn't matter how much I get done, there's SO much on this list to do...I would *really* love to go lie down for half an hour...but I don't feel like I can!
Well...I feel like I'm getting a lot of stuff done...but every time I look at the list, I see TONS more....I've been working for a solid 5 hours since I got back from the salon, which is an hour longer than I usually work on a Saturday...I'm not sure if I tried to do more this weekend than I usually try to do in a weekend...or if the list has actually slowed me down....
There are nine items left on the list....I started the day with 30 and am down to just nine....
I feel like that should be exciting...but I'm actually not at all happy right now...I'm frustrated that I didn't completely 1/3 of my To Do list and am going to take a break down, get dinner and see if I can talk myself into finishing the list tonight before bed...I doubt it will happen...
-10 Minutes Later -
Back to finish working...I'm too stressed about finishing the list to go eat...
Finished 29 of 30 items....
The last one is writing...which I love to do from bed before nodding off to sleep...so I'll do that in another half-hour or so.
Overall...I'm impressed with myself. I really pushed myself hard to get it all done...and did. My tendency on Saturday's is to work my normal four hours and whatever doesn't get done, get's pushed to the following weekend.
This weekend, I got it all done and in time for me to chill on Sunday....I am very proud.
Because of the long list, I was forced to be efficient with my time and it was great to be able to check stuff off the list pretty regularly!
Once I got past the "avoiding my list" phase, I was really effective....
NOW, at the end of the day, I feel pretty good!
I was stressed out and frustrated ALL day. I actually didn't have any fun - and that's a major detriment for me now. I lived a lot of years hating my life, I've learned to design a life and tactics that allow me to enjoy my life every day.
I had a hair appointment, which is basically a short little spa trip for us ladies, and I wasn't able to enjoy the head massages or letting them style my hair.
I was so caught up getting stuff done in order to prove that I could that I didn't enjoy dinner, or lunch and when my dog tried to get me to play with him, I snapped.
It took a lot of time to make the list, probably caused me a couple extra gray hairs, and made me feel like a failure more often than not through-out the day.
Honestly, I felt pretty robotic, and with how stressed out as I was about getting it all done, I can't imagine how much of a failure I'd feel like right now if I hadn't been able to get it all done.
Plus, working from 8am-9:30pm daily is not sustainable.
I prefer my list of priorities. Focus on what matters, on the 6-9 items that HAVE to be done, and schedule the rest as it fits in.