Sunday, 28 October 2018

A Tale of Two To-Do Lists

Earlier this week, I was feeling a little rough and did not really have the mental capacity to do anything except scroll back down my Twitter timeline to remind myself of other times when I was sad. Oddly enough, it cheered me up. (Sorry in advance for the #germanpun.)

Adulting is hard, y'all. I may only work part-time at my "day job" (there's such a stigma attached to that term?), and yes, I do also have freelance projects to keep my head above water. But to be honest, I would say most of my time outside the office is spent doing stuff that is boring and/or exhausting, like getting my prescriptions refilled, or clearing something up at the tax office.

Last week, a parcel had been left for me at a tiny stationery shop, which I'd attempted to pick up on Saturday afternoon... only it turned out they were only open in the morning. Yet on weekdays, their hours were 9:30-18:00. For many people — if not the majority — that's just not doable.
I unexpectedly came home from work at lunchtime on Tuesday, so I then had time to go and pick up my goodies that afternoon rather than on my day off. So that was a nice tonic to a murky day.
While not super far away, it was still quite a walk to get to the stationery shop. I was surprised to see that the place was stuffed with cardboard boxes and parcels. How do these things work? Did the shop owner actually volunteer to accept deliveries for ungrateful punters? I'm not convinced it wasn't all a ruse to get unlikely customers to patronise the shop; we may inhabit a digital age, but people still need pens, after all. But then why had no shops closer to my building snapped up this sweet deal?

I look back on when I worked 40-hour weeks on a rigid schedule. How on earth did I organise my health and life admin around work and terrible opening hours? With great difficulty, let me tell you. I was in a near-constant state of panic or paralysis.

Unfortunately, the stressful nature of these things can seep out into moments when you want to switch off, leaving you unable to truly relax. I recently read that unlike, say, a decade ago, we now feel compelled to fill in little moments of idleness with something, anything, and that makes adults overtired like toddlers (gulp — for me, that had sort of been the appeal of Pocket). And then when you suddenly remember you have so many things you'd like to spend your time on when there's no work looming, you feel a sense of dread. You feel like you're wasting your life.

That's why you gotta make an Obligations To-Do List and a Fun To-Do List!

Have a sneak peek at mine (I have redacted a couple of items, obvs):
  • Design tattoo
  • Write letter to friend
  • Watch Wach
  • Make blog more responsive and mobile-efficient
  • Download Spotify onto phone; get subscription 
  • Sell bike
  • Check Microsoft Office licence status
  • Get watch batteries
  • Update scrapbook

Alright, looking at a couple of those, my definition of "fun" might be a bit broad. But in this case, I've basically taken it to mean stuff that's not work and is not a slog. Stuff that isn't always discernibly a pleasure, but is still satisfying. Short-term stuff that, over time, will make tiny improvements to my day-to-day life and help me to fulfil my long-term goals. Isn't that what they call... self-care?

And at any rate: who can deny the ecstasy that is crossing something off a to-do list? (Definitely not Earth signs.)

I'm sure there are numerous apps that could help you out with this, but I actually really prefer using a physical diary to a phone calendar. (When my friends want to schedule me in for a Gcal date, though, I will humour them and click "Yes". Hi, Fiona!)
I use this diary to organise my Obligations To-Do List: work, appointments, reminders. I write stuff in for the specific day I want to get it accomplished on or by, usually prioritising by deadline or urgency. If ever a day — or at least an afternoon — is relatively blank, I try to then use that for one of my Fun To-Do List items.

I write down these "treat tasks" on a magnetic notepad that I got from Paperchase a while ago. As you can see on my list above, it tends to be low-priority life admin that isn't really that scary, creative stuff, or little things I can do when I'm hit by book fatigue (as opposed to forcing myself through a read that I'm not really feeling in that moment).

At the end of the day, these little tasks and fragments are the puzzle pieces that make up our lives. The act of putting something on my Fun To-Do List actually nudges me towards gratitude. It challenges me and gets me excited to do something that is actually relatively banal, which has to be good for my overall health, right?

Personally, in order to be happy, I need to have things going on in my life that aren't just going to work, messing about online, going to bed. Don't get me wrong; sometimes that's exactly what hits the spot! But in the bigger picture, I need to see personal progress. I want to have a full overview of all the tiny bits and bobs that come together to form my existence, whether they are dull, exciting, or somewhere in between. I want to be able to look back and say, "I got that done", without bowing to the modern model of constant, fruitless productivity.