Monday, August 21, 2017

Having a Don’t-Do List



The last time I went home for Christmas, I was pretty focussed. In attempts to further breaching out of my depression, I decided to prioritize adding fun and beauty to my life instead of perceiving pomp and circumstance, traditions, and celebration as a huge waste of time. I came to terms that spending my life only working not only sucked inspiration out of me, but also contributed to my lack of happiness. Sometimes the stupid, shallow things are really important for embracing life.

For 2017 New Year’s resolutions, I had decided to celebrate every holiday, and I would start with Christmas 2016. So I went home, forced my family to get a tree, nixed the idea of no presents, made gingerbread, and forced fed the holiday spirit to my equally perfunctory lifestyled parents.

I also got a lot done on my giant “lifetime” to-do list. I did more in a week than I had done in previous months. I was feeling good about myself, productive, and mobile.

But then I got home to my apartment in New York City. I fell behind in the parts of my deadlines I didn’t prep for. I didn’t write. I spent a great deal of time back in my old habits of sitting on Facebook and feeling shitty about it. What had changed?

My to-do list.

Prior to Christmas, I rode into Boston with my cousin to help make some extra cash through paralegal work. I could only bring a set number of projects with me, so I prioritized. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but I spent a good deal of it socializing and did enjoy myself. I wasn't as good with time management as I had been in past years, but still better than I’d been recently.

When I flew out to Wyoming for the holiday, the projects that I could bring cut my options down even more. While I could throw a quilt and sewing machine, a violin, untyped note pages, and a printed manuscript into the back of a car, I was limited to what could fit into my backpack. I ended up having my computer and a book.

Because I was limited to working on a comic or writing, I found it easier to start the day, not feeling overwhelmed with options. I knew what I had to do and couldn't waste time debating or switching back and forth between projects. Even this morning, as I get up, there are so many choices of what I’d like to get done, it makes it easy to blow them all off. I could read. I could write. I could edit. I could draw. I need to get my newsletter out. I need to get started on next month’s Story of the Wyrd. I need to design the next giveaway. I could do next week’s comic, or work on getting ahead on it as I had been telling myself I would. I could sew the button on my coat sleeve. I could paint. I need to get through more of my material.

Then there are, of course, the shoulds. During the first few months of the year, I was unemployed in my new city. Job hunting is painful, emotionally exhausting, a constant stressor that can suck motivation to do anything. Even when you are working diligently, you should be putting yourself out there. Your savings won’t last forever. Even after getting a job, I wasn’t making bank, and I know that if I really want money, I should be building a portfolio for my quilts. If I could be savvy and aggressive about it, I could probably find a market for them and earn something on the side. But it’s time consuming and I hate promoting myself. I also feel like I need to get several quilts ahead to really draws people’s interest, even on commission work.

This is why I came up with the idea, The Don’t-Do List. That’s something that needs to be done, but it doesn’t need to be done today. If you choose not to worry about it, you’re not allowed to even think about it. Cut down on your demands on yourself and you’re more likely to be motivated to do something important.

Other options for increasing productivity is to organize a list in order of priority—which has the closest deadline? In order of longevity—which is something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest? Or in order of duration—what can I get done quickly? What will take me several days, weeks, or months of trying.

Mostly, it’s a combination of all three.

Today, I think, I’m going to restart my time management skills (something I’m usually good at) by taking a moment to make several lists and organize my thoughts. It can feel like a waste of time, but it’s better than being on Facebook at least.




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