Weekend 10 Review: What I learned from my to-do list.

I am very into my routines and habits. I do find that they can help me to remember things, or to simply not have to think very much about everyday tasks, because I have a set way and order. Many times last weekend, it was challenging to think of ways to break up my routine and then to let go of the ways I liked to do things.

It was fun, though! There was a funny sense of freedom and spontanaeity in my weekend just from doing my everyday things in a different way. One of my favourite changes was studying in different rooms of the house. I didn’t really find the studying any more fun, but having the novelty of being in rooms I don’t normally inhabit did help to get me started.

My favourite change, though, was just lying on my bed in the sun. Saturday was a sunny and mildly cool day and in the afternoon the sun hit my window and began to warm up my bed. It felt so tranquil and cosy to just curl up in that small patch of sunlight, that I allowed myself to lie there for about twenty minutes and do absolutely nothing (not even read or browse the internet). I was allowed to do that because I was mixing up my routines and habits. It’s funny how I find it hard to really do nothing because it’s breaking an arbitrary, self-imposed rule (to do with feeling like I’m filling up every minute). On Saturday, I was following my rules by doing something a bit different.

I would like to try to continue this. I have a feeling that the more I look for habits and routines to purposely disrupt, the more I’ll discover mental habits that could use some redirection.

My trial of a thoughtless to-do list (and a not-to-do list) had minor success. By breaking my study points down into small, clear parts and only have three of those small items on my list I did find it much easier to get started. It managed to keep at bay that horrible feeling of being overtaken by a huge wave of impossible tasks so that it felt safer to run for the beach than to dive into the water and try to swim a bit. With this to-do list technique, I found that I needed to devote a bit of time to actually making the list well. To make the tasks really straightforward and undaunting, I needed to try to take as much of the thinking out of each item as possible and reduce them to as purely mechanical actions as I could manage (not always easy for assignment-related tasks). It had felt like procrastination to spend so much time on the list before actually starting to get anything done, but I subsequently found that I would have completed my tasks less painfully if I’d taken that time.

I have also finally accepted that I may not rediscover my study focus this semester. I feel burnt out by study and I can no longer force myself to strive for top marks because I’m finding it so challenging just to complete assignments. It is not because they are too hard, because I would have expected to do well on all of my assignments so far. It is burnout, pure and simple. So I have accepted that I need to be kinder to myself this semester. I have a wonderful record for my previous work in this course. If I keep putting pressure on myself to achieve a really high standard, I will actually make it harder to focus on getting anything handed in at all. It is an extremely difficult switch to make, because it feels like I’m giving up on myself. I know that I’ve done far better in this course than I really thought I could because I’ve allowed myself to aim high and imagine that I can achieve those heights. I’m always wary of allowing myself to give in to being scared or avoiding effort. It has sometimes been hard for me to distinguish when I’m scared or effort-avoiding from when I genuinely need to slow down and look after myself.

Finally, I liked having a not-to-do list because I felt a sense of relief every time I added an item to it. I knew I wasn’t forgetting or abandoning it, but that I didn’t have to be responsible for it immediately. I now need to work on clearing my actual to-do list items and moving those postponed items onto it (and not merely filling it up with new ones).

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About Zaiene

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life I am inspired by so many different ideals of how to live a happy, fulfilled and productive life but struggle to get around to it. Large scale changes are intimidating and difficult to sustain, so this is my bite-sized life experiment. Each week*, I will find one thing in my life to drop and one thing to add. I will try to drop things that have a negative, unhealthy or over-absorbing effect on my life. I will try to add things that will have a positive, healthy, empowering or useful effect on my life. The experiment is to see whether I can cope with these changes and whether they really do improve my life. *(I began it as each weekend, as a less intimidating challenge. After about ten months, I felt that I wanted whole-week - well, Monday-to-Friday - challenges.)
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2 Responses to Weekend 10 Review: What I learned from my to-do list.

  1. I certainly find that creating new routines difficult, but when we never do anything new or create a new space for new habits, new goals (or old forgotten ones) can’t be reached. I like having to-do lists, too, but I find that I need to prioritize between what’s needed and what I’d like to get done, otherwise I have a tendency to box myself in with musts and shoulds….As always, an interesting post!

  2. Pingback: Weekend 13: Late nights/meditation | Drop One, Add One

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