Of lists and tasks

I have always been a list maker – post its and bits of paper abound in my life but last year I gave them up. I found that the ‘to do’ list was actually making my life more difficult and the increasing number of unticked items was creating a pressure which – frankly – at the time I just didn’t need. So when I went to Africa I gave them up: cold turkey. To be honest it wasn’t that difficult as my ‘to do’ list comprised of just one thing: show up. Okay, to be fair to myself I did have to do lesson planning, photocopying, equipment buying etc but I found that having a simple, single purpose made everything much easier.

However, life in London without a regular job, looking after a home and just keeping up with general admin does require a tad more organisation so the lists came creeping back and, at the moment, I am finding them hugely valuable. My days are totally without structure at the moment and the lists help create a sense of achievement. But they have to be manageable. So I have a day ‘to do’ list and then a longer term one which I check every day and transfer any imminent deadlines or chunks of tasks to the daily one. I suspect that most sensible people know this but it’s taken me a while.

I also don’t put things that should be pleasurable or interesting like ‘blog’ on the ‘to do’ list because it creates a pressure that makes blogging a chore. I am learning to be kinder to myself: if I want to blog I will, if I don’t then I will not beat myself up about it.

Going back to daily tasks – in modern society and as a woman, we pride ourselves on the ability to multi-task but often multi-tasking leads to incredible stress and under-achievement. This means I have my list and instead of going through it one by one, I try to do three things at the same time. So I start one thing, get distracted by another and then skip to something else – before I know it the day has disappeared and task one is still only half done. The ability to multi-task is important and valuable – suddenly things land on your desk, door step or by whatever means and you have to deal with them whilst juggling other activities – but very often you’re much better off just doing ONE THING AT A TIME.

Getting myself sorted and being kinder to myself is still very much a work in progress (I suspect that it will be a lifelong work in progress) but I am being much less rigid with myself and – for me – that is a major achievement.

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