Friday, 4 October 2013

What to do with to-do?

I'm a to-do-list girl. Since high school, I've made hundreds of to-do-lists and still do. My then french teacher gave them a word - she used to tell us to "do a posture perfecting movement" whenever somebody had forgotten to do homework or show up for class. So my to-do-lists are called "posture perfecting movement lists", "ryhtiliikelista" in Finnish, to show how one should really start behaving like an adult and take responsibility for one's life and deeds.

I make the lists for home, and most importantly -running a little dance wear shop on my own - I make them for work. I have a book for to-do-lists at work and keep ticking away the chores as they are done. They do work well, and I love the feeling of drawing a line over a chore that needed accomplishing to show the world that I've accomplished something. I also can't forget the things that are on the list, they are visibly there as a reminder, and it helps tons with this limited brain capacity of a human brain :)

One thing I've noticed lately though is that I'm progressively feeling less inspired about the to-do-list book. I don't particularly want to have a peek of what's STILL to be done, and what I still haven't accomplished. For there's a lot to be done, and the more I look at the book, the more it looks like there's no hope for me.

The problem with the work-related to-do lists is that the lists never end. When I get one thing ticked off the list, at least two or three new tickables appear. There's no joy in completing an action when there's thirty-odd more to be done, and then some.

It got to a point a few weeks back when I completely froze looking at the book. There was no point in trying to accomplish anything, because nothing could be accomplished without an addition of two or three more chores to the end of the list. And there I stood, not daring to open the book because for sure the french teacher would come out of the book and tell me off for being such a bad girl and not taking the responsibililty of completing all possible actions to-day.

And as I thought about it, it dawned on me.
The book was my own doing. I had invented all of those chores for myself. I had proper deadlines of about 1/10 of all of the chores (taxes do need to be paid and inventories made, that's not of my own choice, but even their deadlines are negotiable, if need be), and the rest were chores I had completely invented on my own.
Good things, all of them, I'm sure. Things to make the shop easier for the customers and myself to be in, plans on making the shop a better place. Cleaning, clearing, bringing in something new and establishing further the collection I already have. Making new orders and contacting customers. And had I been the owner of the local H&M-store, things I'd have no problem delegating to the immense amount of staff under my fingertips and got done in no time at all.

But as I am here on my lonesome, I can't possibly do 30 odd people's worth of work in no time at all. I can do what I can do, I realized. And that is a lot. But it's certainly not 30 odd people's worth of work.
So I needed to *do less*. Prioritise. Chuck away the book that gave me the shivers and try out something more manageable.

I downloaded the free Ommwriter -program to the computer and listening to the soothing sounds it makes made a list for this week. A list of four things to do. Four, and no more. And once one thing would be done, I would not add another, but look at it disappear for good. The list had things that would be helpful to get done this week, but if that would not be possible, I would not hang myself. I would not make another list until that list was completely empty.

My list for this week first list was:

*To get a certain product online that I've had in the live shop for a long time. It deserves a good space and time dedicated to it. And just that one product. Not the ten who are all calling my name at the same time :)

*To mail all the orders that can be mailed to the customers. This week, and not next week. Not because I have to, but because I want to be of help and of service. And to remember to thank each of the mailed customers separately for their time and attention. For they are who I'm here for, and they have trusted me with their orders.

*To wash and dry a newly acquired materials for another product at the shop. Not to get carried away with the project and try to finish it all in a day.

*To make orders to the manufacturers. This was quite a vague thing to be said, for ordering is something I have to do regularly, at least around this time of the year. But I had listed three companies on the list for this week.

It seems considerably easier to do four things than to do 30. And these would obviously go on top of the ordinary everyday things at work, so even four is quite plenty, for one person's week.

I'm encouraging myself (and offering you a chance to come a long for the ride) to do less, and by doing so concentrating more on the little things chosen to give one's attention to.

Completing the washing and drying made me smile a little. Waving the last mailed letter goodbye today made me feel even better. Somehow lighter. Not a single thing has been added to the Ommwriter list, but I've been watching the deeds disappear one after another. There's still some to be done, but there's still part of today and the whole of tomorrow time. There's *time*!

So I'm encouraging you fellow to-do-listers to try out the calm and quiet four-part list (instead of the usual there's-a-million-things-to-be-done -version) for one week.

Here's how:

*Find a nice writing atmosphere and space. I'm loving the calm of the above mentioned new writing space, and if it's something you'd like to try, you can try it for free.

*Write down 4 things that you think need doing. If possible, make them small enough, so you'll have time to concentrate on every thing you've planned to do. Forget the original to-do-lists for one week, and just go with this one.

*Explain to yourself, why you should concentrate on the four things chosen. Write down reasons why each of these these four made your list. Write down what good they will do and how it will help you and the world around you if you complete them.

*Complete the four tasks in your own time throughout the week. Make sure to breathe through doing so, and stopping to concentrate on whatever it is that you're doing. Make the moment last, and be reminded of the reasoning behind your deeds.

*As one chosen thing gets done throughout next week, watch the deed disappear from the list. Delete it thoughtfully, embracing the reasoning behind your original choice, and realising you're free of the stress it ever managed to cause you. Do not net new things crawl their way onto the list at least until it is completely empty.

*Marvel at the space you have just created, and marvel at the things you have just accomplished.

There's my plan for next week.
How does your week look?


Dar said...

Anne, excellent post! I can only imagine what you will accomplish after a month of 4-task to-do lists... Keep up the great work!

Robert Thompson said...

HI Anne. I always have been terrible about making lists. After reading your post I shall give it another try. Thanks for the tip on Ommwriter. It looks like something I may want to try.

Anki Palm said...

I smiled while reading Your post Anne-Marika. We are a lot of "to do list-girls and boys out there..I'll try what You suggested to see the whole picture better, said the optometrist.

Tanssiinan Anne said...

Thank you Dar, we'll see what four weeks will do :) That sounds like a challenge to me.

Tanssiinan Anne said...

Robert, thanks for commenting! Lists aren't for everybody, as nothing in life is. But I've found it easier to give something that's 'not mine' a second chance if there's sound advice from someone who's finding the thing useful and easy to follow. Hope you find using lists easier this time!

Tanssiinan Anne said...

Anki, thank you.
It's good for the optometrist to see a better picture ;) Let us know how it's effecting life. I have to say I left one thing undone last week. But three out of four is not bad at all. And it's nice to start another week with only one thing on the list!