Herding dragons is a lot like herding cats except that dragons bite, breathe fire and tend to fly. Cranky dragons are more apt to do all those things.
I need to be organized so that I am more productive with what small amount of time and energy I have available. This is where it gets really tricky though. There are a lot of things that must be done, more that need to be done and then there are the things I want to do. This is where balance is very important. Why? Because crashing life’s roller coaster is BAD.
Making a List
This is a tricky thing and can be a double-edged sword. It is nice to be able to just look at the list and know what you need to do without wracking your brain all the time or wandering around wondering why you are in that room. I do the wandering quite a bit. On the other hand, your list must be prioritized and not overly long. There are only so many hours in a day and life will to happen repeatedly. Sometimes multiple times a day.
I usually write my list on a small flip pad because it fits in my pocket/purse and I don’t spend time looking for it.
Hand Written List
You want to hand write your list because the physical act of writing does something to your brain. The act of physically forming the letters forces you to really see what you have written on the list. Often when we hand write things we are more apt to evaluate it as it goes on the paper. There are times I take one look at what I have written and know I am over-reaching myself. These are immediately crossed out or erased.
Pat yourself on the back for the realization and the action.
A general and vague list still leaves you wandering quite often. A list that is specific and detailed allows you to know at a glance what you need to do. Instead of “Do Laundry” I usually list what needs to be washed that day: Wash whites, Wash jeans, Sort colors and wash two loads. This way I don’t stand in the laundry room staring at the laundry wondering where to start.
Start your list with things that you do every day because if life happens to disrupt the rest of the list you still have visual evidence that you have accomplished something. I usually have five or six of these.
- Get out of bed
- Get dressed
- Make school lunches
- Clean up from breakfast
- Make dinner
- Take a shower
Next on the list are things that you do on specific days. These are things like:
- Go to the ______ store
- Do laundry: Wash whites, Wash jeans, sort colors and wash two loads
- Go to the bank and activity
- Clean ______ room
- Run errands: List specific errands
Now comes the other things that crop up. You know the ones:
- Make/buy cookies for _______
- Help at ______ party at _____ school at ______ time.
- Call person, phone number, time
- Volunteer at location, time, activity
Remember that you do not want more than eight hours of activity on your list. The longer something takes, the fewer items you will have on your list. This is VERY important to your mental health.
Do What Is On Your List
I often look at my list in the morning and think, “I don’t want to do any of this.” However, I have found that if I just suck it up and do what is on the list I feel very accomplished at the end of the day. If I don’t I often feel frustrated at myself and stressed because now I have more to do tomorrow.
Check It Off!
As you go through your day and complete what is on your list don’t forget to physically check it off. Each thing you check off your list is something that you have accomplished that day. Being able to actually see it is important. This is where the “everyday” items can be very important. There are times when life happens and the list becomes totally irrelevant. Don’t panic, just do what needs to be done. At the end of the day you have still checked off a few things and it is surprising how good it feels.
I Didn’t Get To It, Now What?
Life happened today and there are things on my list that I just couldn’t get done. First thing you need to do is tell yourself that It is okay. Giving yourself permission to have incomplete activities on your list is required. Why? Because it allows you to accept that you are human and don’t need to be perfect. For the perfectionist, this can be very difficult.
Look at what didn’t get done. Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10, how important is this?” Now, be realistic with yourself. If you didn’t get to the store your family will not starve. If you didn’t get the laundry done no one will go naked. If you didn’t make it to whatever volunteer activity or appointment that was on your list did anyone die? Go to jail? End up in the hospital? Usually the answer is “No.” See if you can reschedule.
Somethings will need to be transferred to the next day. Usually things like laundry, shopping, cleaning. Don’t get upset. It will get done. High priority things will definitely need to be transferred and probably rescheduled. It’s okay.
Don’t Forget That Life Happens
A list is a useful thing, but it is not set in stone. Things happen. A child gets sick. You get sick. The car won’t start. Your garage door gets stuck. You lock yourself out of your car/house. A friend stops by and really needs to talk. You forget to put something on the list. You lost your list. It doesn’t matter what happens, life is what it is. Be willing to let go of things that did not end the world and remember that if the world ends it doesn’t matter anyway.
Everybody loves to be rewarded. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Sometimes I am so tired or stressed that I need to give myself a treat every time I check something off the list. Especially the “get out of bed”. Have some special chocolates or favorite snacks. Take five minutes and go outside. If you manage to get everything on your list checked off watch a movie with popcorn. Go out for the evening.
Disclaimer: For those like me who are recovering obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist, over-achievers be careful. Don’t get carried away with your list and forgive yourself if you don’t get everything on it checked off. You can still check off the laundry if it got washed by not folded. If you become stressed out or anxious about your list walk away. Take some time off.