The theme for this month is diaries. I used to keep a diary when I was a kid. In it I wrote about all of the important stuff in a fourth grader's world: who was talking to whom, which boys were the cutest, and which teacher liked to give homework over the weekend. (What a meanie! *shakes fist*)
As an adult, I don't keep a diary, but a schedule. Those who know me laugh at my computer full of spreadsheets and office full of Post-It notes. What they don't realize is that without them, I'm lost.
I'll let you in on a little secret: I get easily overwhelmed. It doesn't take too many tasks to pile up before I'm crawling under the covers and sobbing into my pillow. To-Do lists, schedules and deadlines do more than help me get organized. They help me break down my responsibilities into bite-sized pieces so I don't get overloaded.
Task lists are especially handy this time of year. In the fall, my two girls are heading back to school, and all of their after-school activities are beginning. Forms need to be signed, summer projects need to be completed, and signups for extra-curricular activities occur. (Limited space, better hurry!) My youngest daughter also has her birthday on September first, so yeah, you can see how I tend to get overwhelmed.
I have been creating To-Do lists for years and over time I've come up with a few key things that make them work for me.
1) Keep the list managable. Don't write down twenty tasks because you won't have time to finish them all. When there are items left on your "to-do" list at the end of the day, it can really put a damper on your motivation.
2) Keep it simple and specific. A goal like "clean the house" can be overwhelming. Try breaking it down into bite-sized chunks like "clean the kitchen" or "do one load of laundry." A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can finish each task in an hour timeframe.
3) Schedule time for youself. It is unrealistic to think that you can work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Suffering from mental and emotional burnout isn'tpretty, and the best way to stop it is to work on your overall health. On your schedule, make sure you do one thing for yourself each day. It could be as simple as "take a 30 minute walk," or "read a short story." By taking time for yourself, you ensure you are mentally and physically ready to deal with the tasks on your list tomorrow.
4) Schedule time with loved ones. This is just as important. Time goes by so fast. You don't know how long you are going to live on this earth, so make sure you spend some time each day with those people who are important to you.
5) Be rigid, yet flexible. When you create a schedule or a task list, try not to get distracted. Focus on one item at a time and work your way down the list until you have accomplished everything you want to do. At the same time, know that life happens. Emergencies come up, plans change, and people show up unexpectedly. Be easy on yourself. If something happens and you can't finish your task list, don't beat yourself up over it. There is always tomorrow.
How about you? Do you live and die by task lists and schedules like me, or are you more spontaneous? Tell me about it in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you!
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A lifetime New Englander, Suzanne married her college sweetheart and has been with him for over twenty years. Every summer she drags her husband and two daughters to Maine on a quest for the perfect lobster dinner. Every fall she can be found down in Foxboro, Massachusetts cheering on her favorite football team. In between those trips, she’s a chauffeur, a maid, a chef, an event planner, a hairdresser, a wardrobe stylist, a tutor and a sometimes masseuse. To keep her sanity, she often drinks copious amounts of coffee and stares at the blank screen of her laptop, dreaming of great adventures. Sometimes she even writes them down for others to enjoy.
Suzanne is represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency and writes mainstream romances under the pen name Ava Conway.