• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

07 November 2009

a big to-do

Whenever I get stressed, Pink Hubby insists that I should write down everything I need to do and when I need to do it by. I'm usually resistant to doing it (making lists takes valuable time!) but whenever I do, I always feel better.

A problem arises when I have a lot of things to do, but they have vague due dates. Stuff like wedding thank-you cards fall in to this category. I really should get them done, and I need to get them done, but by when? "Soon" is not good enough.

I work best under pressure, so I assign myself due dates.

First, I look at things that actually do have due dates. Things like assignments for school. I write them all down in a Google document*, and I include how big of a project the item is (is it a 5 page paper? or a 25 page one?). Then, I look at my calendar and write down any holidays, appointments, classes or other things that might eat up my evening or weekend. (For example, a Thursday might look totally open, until I realize it's November 26: Thanksgiving.) And finally, I look at the rest of the stuff, arbitrarily figure out a good due-date for it, and assign it to be accomplished on a day when I don't have too much else going on (for example: a weekend, or a work day when I don't have an evening class).

A [small] excerpt from my list:

Nov 15: essay assignment due [school]
Nov 19: reading assignment 3 due [school]
Nov 22: Order photo books for grandparents [wedding]
Nov 22: Have all Thank You notes in the mail [wedding]
Nov 24: Make "cake balls" for Thanksgiving [family]
Nov 25: 5-7 page paper about interviews due [school]
Nov 25: 10 minute presentation about interviews due [school]
Nov 27: reading assignment 4 due [school]

When I complete an item, I don't delete it - I just lighten the text color and type DONE next to it. This gives me a sense of accomplishment when I look at the list. (I can think: "I may have lots to do, but at least I got that done.")

Some of the list items (such as the reading assignments and wedding items), don't have actual hard due dates. But if I don't treat them like due dates, they won't get done in a timely manner. It's very easy for me to let something fall by the wayside by rationalizing that I'll 'do it later'. But if I've got an assignment DUE, I will get it done. I also try to spread things out. I know I won't want to spend my whole weekend pouring over 5 reading assignments for the same class. Since I sometimes don't have class on certain weekday evenings (while Mr. Mary Jane does), I assign some of that time to do the assignments. That way, I'm afforded a little more free time on the weekends. Unless one of the things is small - like making a phone call - I also usually try not to assign myself more that one thing to do on the same weekday evening.

I can add to my list and subtract from it. And even though it looks like a lot (22 things for school, 5 things for holidays, 3 for a friend's wedding, and 4 related to our own wedding, among other things), it's at least manageable and organized by date.

It's amazing how much relief I feel knowing that this is all written down. The stress that fries my brain isn't necessarily from having so much to do: it's more from all of this stuff bouncing around in my head, and the fear that I'll forget something entirely. I made my list (which stretches until Christmas) last night, and this morning I got up and thought "I wonder what's on the to-do list for tonight". This is a lot better than my usually frantic: "Oh god, I have so freaking much to DO!"

*I used to use a piece of paper and stick it to the fridge, but I am kind of an organization freak, and I had to write out a whole new sheet every time I needed to add something to the list. Neurotic, maybe.