Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help Wanted: List-maker seeks schedule

I have a lot of notebooks, and I go back and forth between feeling strengthened by their piles of lists and notes and feeling completely helpless against their enormity, a mountain of expectations. Sometimes when I steal away from home and sit before one or two notebooks or random pieces of paper filled to the margins with ideas, or rough drafts, I feel free, ready to jump right into a task. Like yesterday when I was reviewing some brainstorming notes I made with Alex about some exciting new business plans, my lists lifted me up and got me to work. (I'm so excited to share these with you, but not quite yet. I have to organize the parade first.) And then there's today, where the many, many lists and notes and drafts are staring me down, taunting me, teasing me, and nudging me to get going already.

All things considered, I think this is my brewing time. I've had this process for a long time, where I sit with a project, worry about it for a long while, panic that it isn't done yet, before I realize that I was making progress all along. Working can't always be about action, but requires reflection, a moment to untangle all the moving pieces. Of course a person such as myself sometimes rests too long in this place of reflection and then moves into a place of oh-crap-this-needs-to-get-done-yesterday. (As a lifelong procrastinator, this article was a breath of fresh air, a reminder that my putting things off comes from a place of deep fear about not being perfect. Fuck perfect. And thanks, Kaylie, for passing this along.) This is where my lists and notes come in, reminding me that work does still require action after all. This is also why one of my 100 resolutions includes finding a new way to organize my time (this isn't the first time I've cried out to the internet about how to make the most out of my lists). Reflection isn't effective if all those good ideas are lost before they can be put to good use.

Lest you think I'm beating myself up over not doing enough work, I'm not. As much as I struggle with being perfect and doing perfectly, I know I'm human. I'm just strategizing out loud on blog, working through my ideas in front of your very eyes. You know how the internet is always telling us to stop multitasking and be calm and quiet about everything? How can I not multitask when I'm a working adult with two children, a home, pets, friends, loved ones, a city to explore, and futures to imagine? No, it can't be done. While I'll throw myself into finding a way to structure my days and work time in such a way that will minimize unnecessary stress (and anxiety, since I'm wired that way), I can't ignore the variety of responsibilities I have. I just can't.

But I will try to remember to breathe.

Back to my lists, which really means, back to finding a strategy to get everything done. The best strategy I find is just sitting down to work, but sometimes that's harder than it sounds, because sometimes sitting down to work really means: how do I make sense of all of this? How do I teach and grade and create and support and feed and sweep (mostly I don't sweep) and hopefully get some rest all in this short, short, day? I have lists for my teaching, lists for my doula work, lists for how to fill my kitchen (with really good food, please) and for who needs all new t-shirts (Alyce, because she won't stop growing). Which list to turn to first? How do I combine lists? All of a sudden those notebooks are staring at me again.


So I'm getting to work on one of my resolutions this week: Try out some new time management tips and see what works best (#74). And here is where you come in: can you give a girl a hand and send me your best ideas? Do you have something that works for you? Do you have a favourite blog on the topic? Any words of advice (only friendly ones, please and thank you)? I'm asking for help because it's something I'm getting better at doing, almost at least once a week now. I ask Matt for help on this topic All The Time, but because he's my husband I sometimes only half listen to him (sorry, my darling). Because he's so handsome I can't concentrate! (There you go.)

Here is what I am looking for:

:: A plan that uses lists because I love lists. They help the visual part of my brain do its magic.
:: I'm not looking for an online app or list tool because they don't seem to work for me, even though I spend a lot of time in front of my computer or phone. I need the doodling, random scribbling of an old-fashioned notebook.
:: Something that incorporates big and small deadlines, that might help me learn to calculate how best to break down a task and estimate the time it will take to accomplish it.
:: To schedule or not to schedule: how do we figure out which one works?
:: Encouragement.

I'll be back in the next few days (for real this time) to outline some of my jobs/projects/goals as well as my general responsibilities as I see them. Just in case you thought I lounged at home wondering how to begin my napping business.

Will you help? In return I offer you my mum's Mexican Tortilla Soup recipe, stolen from one of my many notebooks (there's more than just lists in these books). When I visit my mum I ask her to make this for me every time because it feeds my soul, and love of salt and lime.

P.S. Alyce did it again. This time it was a button.
P.P.S. Sorry for swearing, mum.

Be well!

1 comment:

  1. Keep a good old fashioned calendar in the kitchen and write everything on the calendar. Forget the colour coding and stickers (because you'll stop using them). Don't try to be too fancy. Just WRITE EVERYTHING ON THE CALENDAR and check it every day. Appointments, phone numbers, good deeds, judo classes...it will be messy but it will be in one place. Keep your calendars from previous years - stuff 'em in a drawer - you might want to look something up from last June. I survived four sons, hockey, soccer, music lessons, a split-shift work schedule, numerous appointments,Christmas concerts, and a large extended family who loves to party.