I love a list. Like, I really love listing. A lot. And I love being able to check things off a list. It's so satisfying!
But loving lists kind of makes me prone to putting everything on my list--it's like the same problem I have with carrying too big a purse: I put everything in it and never use two thirds of it. And that means my list is nice and long and my daily pages look great, but there's always piles of stuff that never get done.
And then I'm sad.
It's the hardest lesson I had to learn as a planner nerd: how to not list everything. Or, put another way, how to not expect myself to be able to do seven hundred things in a single day and then get upset when I can't.
I had to learn to be realistic.
I think that's probably the best lesson is learned, too, though, because it means I'm much less stressed. Each day, I pick three or five realistic things I can do that day, and then I do them, and if there's time I pick something else to add to the list.
I'm old enough now and I've been tracking how my brain works long enough, that I can sort of eyeball my weekly task list--which is where I confine my need to make long lists!--and figure out what I can reasonably do in t time I have that day. Most of the time, it's a writing goal, repeating daily tasks, maybe a time-dependent thing or two, and then only one or two actual projects. It feels slow, and sometimes that's frustrating, but it's MORE frustrating to always feel like I'm never getting anything done because everything is always left unchecked at the end of the day.
Being realistic also means knowing how I think and heading my own scatter-brained-ness off:
- I keep post-it notes and / or a scratch pad next to me to take notes on things I suddenly remember I need to do instead of dropping everything to go do them and never finishing anything*.
- If new things come in, I slot them in later in the week instead of trying to add them to today's list.
- I try to block out time to get things done.
- I leave the expectations small so I can get them done easier, and then if they're done really easily, I can do the next step or the next thing and feel super productive.
- I try to pay attention to myself to make sure I don't feel overloaded, but also not bored. I check in and see whether I'm having a pain day or not before I decide on the daily to do.
- I try not to beat myself up over unfinished things--putting a little arrow to show myself that I've moved it and not given up is great for that!
- And I do weekly reviews and monthly reviews so I can be sure of the big-picture stuff: even if I have a crap day or a crap week, I can still see that stuff is happening, and it makes it easier.
How do you stay realistic about your ability to get stuff done?
*Those scratch pages go into my journal eventually, usually at the Es of the week after I mark everything off or add it to the official list for the next week.