Improving my to-do list

My to-do lists are awful. They are scattered everywhere in my house, like the random thoughts tumbling around in my brain. I’m guessing it’s a good habit to write so many of my thoughts down, but not so helpful when they become more clutter on the kitchen counter (and office, and living room and car…)

Still, for all my to-do lists, I often feel like I’m simply shuffling of things around, like I’m moving but not necessarily going anywhere or accomplishing much of anything. Even after a productive day, I feel like I missed something important that I really meant to do, though I can’t always put my finger on why I feel this way.

It occurred to me in the shower (as most of my discoveries do) that maybe what I’m missing is a more complete to-do list: one that will make me feels accomplished no matter how many dishes are still “soaking” in the sink.

The list became longer than I was expecting, but I still think each of these things is doable on a daily basis.

1. Do something that scares me. This one has to do with my efforts to venture outside my comfort zone as much as possible. I’m naturally a bit of a homebody, and now that I don’t actually leave the house to work (and some days don’t leave the house at all), my comfort zone seems to be shrinking. Big or small, I want to do one thing every day on the edge of my comfort zone to keep it from collapsing in on me.

2. Un-procrastinate. This one will be hard because I am an expert procrastinator and queen of making excuses to myself. My time management potential would go through the roof, I’m convinced, if I just un-procrastinated one or two things per day. The hardest part is never the task I am procrastinating. It is getting over the hump of making me start something.

3. Connect with someone. Back to the homebody thing—I tend to go too long without reaching out to friends and family. For most people, this one is a given, but for me it can be tough to get outside my own head and make sure I connect with someone every day. Whether a phone call, coffee date, or email (though email is a stretch for real connection), I think this one is crucial to add to my daily list.

4. Make a memory. Somehow, little guy is already 6 months old. My dogs are both 5 years old! I’ve been married for going on 6 years. I don’t remember much of what has been going on for the past several years or so—I can see why people seem to think times speeds up as we get older. I used to remember all the Christmases, birthdays, and vacations. Now I find myself questioning how old I am going to be on my next birthday. Not all days are gems, but I every day has at least one thing worth remembering, whether in writing or photograph. Then I’m going to make a scrapbook! (yeah, right!)

5. Do something that makes me happy. Ever since I started writing this blog, I think about it all the time. I’m thinking of ideas for the future. I observe life in a different way through a writer’s eyes. It makes me happy. I love reading other blogs on different perspectives. Every single day, I want to devote time to my own thoughts and writing and reading. I am humbled that people actually follow what I write and care to comment, but I would do it no matter what. It makes me feel like I’ve still got something for just me (and you too, of course).

6. Take a step back. Absolutely everything benefits from a perspective shift. It is so, so easy to get caught up in the way things seem at the moment. If I can re-frame everything and ask myself if the so-called disaster will matter in five years or next week, I will be so much better off.

7. Get outside. And not just dashing to and from my car. I live in the country and it is gorgeous here. Even on cold days. And little guy loves the outside. So if we need to bundle up and take a quick walk in our woods so be it. We have woods! Lots and lots of mature trees, with a footpath right in our back yard! Why am I not taking advantage of this every single day?! Fresh air is good for the lungs and the soul.

8. Let go. Each day that ends, I lament all the things I didn’t finish on my assorted lists. And usually the obscene amount of dog hair that seems grow out of my carpet no matter how many times I vacuum with my way-too-expensive vacuum cleaner (rant for another day). At the end of each day, I want to be able to let go of my expectations and disappointments and just be satisfied for another day lived.

Bear with me–I’m a recovering perfectionist

I have many big plans. I am going to read all the classics. I am going to write a blog post every day. I am going to start a vegetable garden, and teach my son sign language, and start my own business as a freelance copywriter.

But for all my planning, I have don’t have much going on. I am, it seems, overwhelmed by possibility and unable to see what I should do first. Combine that with past starts-and-stops that have ended in failure, and I have a recipe for stagnation.

One of the most paralyzing symptoms of perfectionism (and my tendency for over-analysis) is that thinking about things is great, but actually starting things is nearly impossible. For a recovering perfectionist, the entire process of a project must be perfect—I must be an expert and get everything right along the way. I struggle with the idea of learning as I go.

I have a pretty vivid memory of the burgeoning of my perfectionist tendencies when I was five years old and about to start first grade. I remember telling my mother that I was scared to go to school. I couldn’t go to school. In school, the children knew how to read and write and add numbers, and I didn’t know how to do any of that. “You don’t go to school already knowing those things,” she insisted, “you go to school to learn.”

I guess it is natural to be scared of what we don’t know. We derive confidence from knowing what to do and expect, but these things absolutely must come from experience. From mistakes. From sounding like an idiot from time to time.
My whole life I have felt like I need to do everything perfectly or else not at all. Which, as I mentioned, has a chilling and paralyzing effect on me. I shun criticism and rejection more than most people. I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

What I’m getting at is this: to this point, I have deprived myself of some great experiences due to my oppressive perfectionism and fear. And I need to stop this very moment. And I may fail, go back to my ways, and get frustrated with my failure. But I have to try again. Do something. Be humble. But be Interesting.