Lists – help or hindrance?

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I like writing lists. They give me a feeling of control, and of optimism – if something has made it on to a list, then I will achieve it. It’s just a question of time. I make lists for all kinds of things and on all kinds of timescales. Generally I find lists help me to juggle all the different things that make up my day-to-day life, from work to family and home and back again.
I forget less – although I’m far from perfect and sometimes forget to even add something really important to my to-do list in the first place.

However, at times my lists can be a bit over-enthusiastic. A couple of weeks ago I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the things I needed – or wanted – to get done. So I wrote a list with all the things I felt I could be getting on with, and the changes I wanted to make. This list was very ambitious, and addressed all the things which tend to get forgotten and put off each week. I broke it down into weekly lists up to Christmas, and was full of hope for the super-organised image of myself I had created (despite all previous evidence that this really isn’t me at all!).

And even though I acknowledged to myself that this list was nigh-on impossible, I still felt that hope that comes with a brand new list. I promised myself I would just do my best and not get too caught up in it. But in the first week I achieved pretty much everything for that week – including getting preparations and shopping underway ready for Christmas, tackling my business accounts and planning, developing new course materials, and all the household jobs I had planned (in addition to those which I do day in, day out every week of the year, without even making it on to a list).

So I started to believe – foolishly –  that this list (which I had started out knowing was unlikely to be possible) was going to be totally achievable. And of course, it wasn’t. After two weeks of pushing myself every day, I have done a lot of things I’m pleased with, over and above those I would have done in any case. But – in the second week – there have also been some which are only partially finished, and others which haven’t been started at all. I had a very busy weekend and couldn’t catch up with all those extra jobs. So now I have to accept that the original list was ambitious; I didn’t initially expect to manage everything on it. And the fatal flaw of all my lists is that the small but time-consuming daily jobs are not included; however, with the list, I have still done more than I realistically thought I could in addition to these.

So perhaps my lesson is to continually revise my lists in the light of my other commitments, my energy levels, and what I feel I can achieve. My lists are meant to be a help, not something which puts me under too much self-induced pressure. I need to be mindful of this, so that working through a list and towards my goals can be enjoyable, with time for all the things that matter to me. I need to accept that at times I won’t be able to do everything on my agenda; and I need to remember to take pleasure in each small thing that I do achieve, and, more than that, in each task, or part-task, whilst I am engaged in it.

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  1. Pingback: Finding clarity | sunfishyoga

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