Everywhere I go, lists and piles follow. At work, I am reading emails, stacking piles of work in order of deadline, and making lists of what I need to do when I get home. In “spare moments” I am ticking through emails on my phone. At home, I walk by piles of laundry to be folded, toys to be put away, magazines to read, events and shows to attend as a business vendor, bills to pay, recipes I want to try; the lists and piles go on and on. Not to mention the continuous ticker running in my head, mentally adding items to my lists (which I then forget a few minutes later because I didn’t write them down.)
Organizing lists simultaneously provides comfort while instigating overwhelm. I love the structure of a list as well as the physical writing. But then, I keep writing. My solace quickly turns to terror; the enormity of tasks on my multiple lists is preposterous. I will never get this all done.
And really, I won’t. So why do I keep trying to do it all?
Honestly, I don’t know. Call it perseverance. Or fear of failing. Maybe even denial. Call it whatever you want, but trying to do everything and always thinking there is more I MUST DO is a juggle and a struggle and unsustainable. I need to change my thinking and how I operate. I need to know when enough is enough. Or I am going to burn out by the end of this blog post. So here we go. Time to work through this.
There is a great book by Peter Reynolds called “So Few of Me” where the main character, Leo, is very busy. He makes lists too. So much so that he wishes there were more of him to finish the work. And he gets his wish ten times over. But – spoiler alert – it doesn’t help. My husband and I love reading this book with our kids because it is a reminder for us, too, to slow down. Does the reminder always work? Clearly not. But we always take pleasure in the read. And it helps me remember that I am choosing to create urgency where it may not be needed.
In that vein, our society’s sense of urgency has been completely shifted due to technology. If our smart phone pings, we feel compelled to check it right away. Why? It’s probably a spam email. We know this, yet we hope that it is a meaningful email, text, or social media post. In my world, I see this distortion of urgency translate to prioritizing tasks. I want everything done now. THEN I can feel productive and accomplished. I can get that hit of dopamine for a job well done. THEN I can relax. There is always that hope of completion.
But that has never happened. I am waiting for a result that will never come in the way I imagine it to exist. I need to decide to stop being busy. That is scary.
And then I remember…I have a spouse. He is awesome. He cooks, does dishes, helps with my business, is an engaged father, and an incredibly supportive husband, among many other great attributes. We are a team. And I am shocked and ashamed at how I forget that at times. he is figuring out how to adult every day just like me. He is working his tail off and needs support too. We talk about issues and concerns as they come up and we tag-team a bunch of stuff, too. So the more I paint a picture here, the more I see the need for me to be running around “doing stuff” as ridiculous.
This is helpful. Light is beginning to glimmer. Moving forward, before I decide to do something I need to ask myself if it is necessary in this exact moment…or do I just feel compelled to tick something off my list? The latter cannot dictate my time anymore. I can change my definition of productivity.
I know, the laundry will always need folding. There will always be bills, too. Lots of tasks will always be there. And we can do them if we take a more collaborative stance. If we communicate more. If we reach out and ask for help. Take time to gain perspective through the blessings we have. Reassess urgency. And when making lists, take comfort in the writing as well as the notion that a team effort will win the day.