Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Revising the To Do List Strategy

on February 24, 2012

On Wednesday I completed a significant stage of one of my projects. I had expected to feel relief, satisfaction, accomplishment, or any number of positive emotions. To my surprise, instead I felt emptiness and a sense of loss. Logically, this made no sense to me. This project brings a pleasing level of gain, but this was absent from my emotional perspective.

After a bit of soul searching, I am more dismayed about my perspective than I was dismayed about completing the project phase.

My life is in a constant state of flux, and I rarely know what I will be doing or where I will be doing it a week from now. I have so much going on at any given moment that most of my friends can’t keep up with me, and even my boyfriend never knows when my next flight will be. I rarely know when my next flight will be. My to do list is filled with projects and tasks that always seem to roll from one week to the next, regardless of size or complexity. I always get so close to finishing them that a few more hours at most would get them out of my mind. Instead I baulk, retreat, and assure myself that I will come back at another time.

These things I need to do are what provide me with stability in an uncertain and chaotic life. No matter what happens to me, no matter where I go, my to do list can come along. Physically or in my mind, it is always there. It is a constant companion. It does not tell me off, it does not judge me, and it is always ready to interact with me. Some of it is exciting, some of it is boring, but it always fills any sense of emptiness I might have.

Yesterday I decided that the backlog of things had to go. I dragged myself through tasks that left me wanting to scream like an unhappy preschooler. By the end of the day I was cranky, exhausted, and in desperate need of a break. It felt as if I had moved mountains, and I knew that when I reviewed it my to do list would have so many ticks that it would seem laughable to keep so many items for so long.

This morning, when I looked over it, I began to tick off items. But there were not as many ticks as I had expected. Then I realised how many things I need to do today were missing from it. Time critical things, such as picking Dad up from the airport and preparing the spare room. I quickly added them, and once again I have filled an entire week in my diary with stuff to be done. The list spilled over into next week, filling it into Wednesday.

Clearly this is not going to work in the long term.

I believe that the outside reflects the inside. This never ending stream of things I need to do is emotional stuff. It matches the physical stuff that I have been trying to declutter for years. I like to have a lot going on, but this is a dysfunctional way of achieving that. As long as I am fixed on low priority tasks, I will never have time for the high priority ones. As long as I keep making excuses or allowing myself to be distracted, I will never achieve what is important to me.

My project management book will be arriving with Dad tonight. I am going to examine everything on my to do list, and try to sort as much as possible into projects. When I rewrite the list on Sunday night, I hope that a lot of things will be converted to overarching subject areas. Perhaps by seeing my directionless pottering around as purposeful action, I can get a better perspective of how valuable my actions are for achieving my goals and dreams. I do work hard, but without a way to evaluate that I am left with fatigue and dissatisfaction. It just becomes emotional clutter, and I have more than enough of that.

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