Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Most Days, I Like Lists

I'm not sure when I first started making my own lists. I do remember the small blackboard in DauDau's kitchen that she used for her grocery list. Frequently, when there were just a few critical items on the board, like bread or milk or toilet paper, she would scribble the list onto a piece of paper and send one of us grandkids to the A&P. When I say scribble, I mean that literally. DauDau's handwriting was awful, but I can't say much. Mine might be even worse. But we could decipher her short lists, probably because they were short enough to memorize and recite rather quickly. We would cut through the yard of the house across the street and come out in the A&P parking lot. Those were the days when you could let little kids run around town unsupervised. I felt like a grownup going to the grocery store for DauDau.

Over the years I've continued to value lists. I particularly appreciate lists of "goals" in progressing my "personal growth." I'm not as consistent as I could be, that's for sure, hence my tendancy to get stuck in a rut or two. But when I'm ready for a change, out come the pens and paper, and of course the keyboard.

This week I've been making lists every night of things I want to accomplish the next day. I have lists in three basic areas - work, writing, and household chores. It's only Wednesday, and already I feel a lack of productivity. I've crossed off very little on my lists today.

I have used a work list with consistency for years. Actually make that multiple lists at work. My team has a conference call a couple of times a week (we used to meet even more often) to maintain a "priorities" list. In addition there's my inbox, and my various email folders, and our ticketing system, which all serve as lists that I check frequently to remind myself what needs to be done. I react pretty quickly to my inbox. I like moving the quick tasks to the finished folder, the equivalent of drawing a line through the grocery item that's in my cart, I suppose. But I'm realizing more and more how ineffecient that work strategy is. I need to organize my work into better priorities, and more cohesive blocks of time. I'm getting too old to multi-task as well as I used to, and recovering from even brief interruptions often means practically starting over on some tasks. I think I also need to focus more on true "goals" for work rather than "tasks". But of the three, my work lists coincide with my most successful productivity. I'm sure my employer would be happy to know that. Even as busy as I was today, and with as many interruptions and conference calls, I still hit most of the items on my priorities list.

While I want my writing to be a more defining part of my life, I've kept my writing goals fairly small this week. They have been the same for three days - editing hubs, blogging, and "starting" a new hub. I want it to "stick", so I'm hesitant to commit to the Great American Novel until I've truly established my writing habits as routine. But even the small goals seem a bit daunting. I've scribbled some ideas for hubs, but I haven't really "started" anything yet. It was 3 pm before I started this blog entry, and I haven't started my editing quota for today. But I have time - these are things I can do while Ken watches Family Guy.

I did really well on my chores Monday and Tuesday - accomplishing even more than I put on my lists. Today has been a bust. I've been busier than usual at work, so I have a really good excuse, but still, I can feel the disappointment, the temptation to submit to defeat, seeping in. I know I'm not likely to do any extra chores at night - cooking dinner and cleaning up the kitchen are enough! I knew even as I put my main three tasks on paper last night that they were probably too 'big'. I like 15 minute or less kinds of chores, and at least two of the three are more time-consuming.

But, the day is not over! I'm not giving up! I was feeling overwhelmed with work, and I knew I needed a break. I took a look at my lists and committed to getting the blog entry written. And look - only 12 minutes, and I'm almost there! I find the more I can cross off my list, the more likely I am to move to the next item.


Almost 8 p.m. now - I had to get back to work earlier. As predicated, I managed to complete my "editing hubs" task while Ken has been watching t.v. I also sent emails with interview questions for an article (and I consider that "starting"). Finally, I moved two of my house-keeping chores to tomorrow's list, and I'm post-poning the third indefinitely. I did complete a couple of chores that really should have been on today's list instead - like cleaning the litter box. You KNOW I deserve extra credit for that one!

The best thing about a list is definitely crossing things off. And I'd say the scratches on my notebook don't look too bad today after all.

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