How to do your To-Do list

I have tried to work to a schedule, but at the moment there’s a lot going on. I’ve started a couple more projects (which is why it’s been a while since I posted), my other half is working irregular hours, and at 7 months pregnant I’m having to take things a little steadier. Which strangely also includes sitting down for too long (think I need a comfy office chair rather than a dining room chair!).

So I’ve been trying another technique, and so far it’s been working well. It’s the good old, tried and tested To-Do list. Nothing too revolutionary. But to get the best out of this way of working, there are a couple of techniques that I’ve found come in very handy.

Decide how and where your To-Do list should be

There are many ways to make your To-Do list these days. Are you going with the good old pen and paper list? Maybe on a whiteboard where you can’t miss it? Or download an app for you to use? Will it be handy on your phone, or keep it on your PC? These are all individual preferences depending entirely on how you work, and it doesn’t matter which you choose. But make sure you pick one, and stick to it. There is nothing worse than having 5 different To-Do lists, all with different things on them.  Keep all your stuff to do in one place. Personally I’m an old school pen and paper kinda gal.

Keep an Ultimate, everything included To-Do list

This one is the monster list, with everything you can think of on there. List everything you need to get done, and also what you want to get done (rarely the same thing). Hopefully your list will be a long one, and you won’t be able to write everything down in one sitting.Whatever you think of and whenever you think of it, write it on the list. Make sure you include practical things and also personal projects and things you want to try for fun. It will get longer and longer, and may seem a little insurmountable and daunting at first, but this list is to make sure that nothing gets forgotten and nothing gets left behind.

Try to keep a rough order of priority, with the most important things going to the top. It’s not essential, but I would hate for ‘pay the bills’ to be hidden at the bottom, get missed for a few weeks and only come to light when the electricity is cut off.

Also try to break bigger jobs down to smaller pieces – don’t just put ‘Learn a language’ or ‘Write a novel’ – add a side notes of ‘Learn how to say hi’ or ‘write chapter 1’ , make it something specific and more manageable.

Three is the magic number

I used to have a boss who could only remember 3 things. Any more than that, and he’d forget the lot.

If you have a terrible memory, or you are an amazing procrastinator (like me!) then 3 is a good number to start with. Pick 3 things to tackle from your big to-do list, and write them on a separate list (I know I said to keep one list, but you’ll be looking at this one and won’t have chance to forget you wrote it). This is your working To-Do list, the one you are going to deal with today. Forget the rest, we’re going to focus on these 3.

Make sure you include anything from your Big List that has a deadline coming up (Like that electricity bill…), and pick anything else you want to get done. Try to give yourself a good mix of things to do – a bit of work and a bit of fun, a priority one and a just-for-the-hell-of-it one. Work through them and get them done. Also remember to do them well, don’t rush them, we’re forgetting about the rest and concentrating on getting these 3 done right.

If your list is full of easy quick things then you could maybe push it to 5. But no more! You don’t want to end up with a list you can’t deal with. We’re taking easy baby steps here…

Finished your three? Yay! 

Rather than never getting to the end of your ultimate list and feeling unmotivated and deflated, you’ve given yourself the satisfaction of completing your mini list. Even if you don’t do anything else for the rest of the day, you can feel satisfied that you’ve got your first three things out of the way and you’ve achieved a little bit of something.

Don’t forget to cross them off your Big List too!

If you have time, pick another three

If you’ve finished your To-Do list by lunchtime and you want to crack on with some more, then by all means go ahead. Pick another three things, and work through those. Again, take your time and only think about the three on your list.

Don’t push yourself to get everything finished from your Big List in one day – If you’ve done this right and written down everything you would like to do, you will never get to the end of your big list. It will show that you have a rich and varied life, and have things you want to achieve.

And remember if you are picking three more then mix it up – if your first 3 were practical, make the next 3 indulgent and fun.

Once a week, have a clear out

Make sure you go through your Big To-Do list once a week to keep it up to date. There might be something you thought was on there that needs adding on, or something you no longer need to deal with that needs taking off. You might need to shop for a birthday present that wasn’t a priority last week, but you’ll be in the bad books if it doesn’t get done this week. Any big projects you’ve broken down, make sure the next part is on the list. Give things a shuffle around, change things as you need to, and then work from your new list for the next week.

Keep this going, picking another 3 little jobs from your list every day. Before you know it the list won’t seem quite so scary and you’ll be getting everything done that you want to do.

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Why 17th April sucks! (or 8 ways to deal reminders you just don’t need!)

There’s a great post I read the other day on The Body Pacifist all about triggers, and it just so happens that today is one of the biggest in my calendar.

April 17th is my father’s birthday. Although I don’t like to give him credit for affecting my life, he was my abuser and probably the root of a lot of the evil that I live with. I am around the same age as he was when he was my abuser, and I can’t get my head around how he somehow found an 11 – 15 year old girl to be anything remotely sexual. I know in my mind that its a sickness, but it doesn’t help me understand why anyone would succumb to it. Especially as I have a nephew who is the same age as I was. And also this year I have the added insight of knowing the hot coals I would crawl over for the unborn child I don’t even know yet, nevermind someone I have lived with and watched grow up.

So April 17th always brings up various issues and feelings that I’d rather not have to deal with. But I’ve come to realise that it will always be one of my triggers, and I have ways of dealing with it that I have used over the years to help keep a level head on this and other triggers I come across.

 Acknowledge the thought, but don’t give it too much airtime

There are always going to be triggers, and there’s no use denying it. If you pretend they don’t exist and fight against them, they are going to have more of an impact. For example, I don’t want you to think of pink elephants. Don’t you dare think of pink elephants! I bet I know what your thinking of though….

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Ok, so I might have found another trigger to my childhood nightmares……

It’s better to acknowledge the feeling, accept it, and move on. Know that sometimes these feelings will creep up on you when you least expect them. Know that it isn’t always going to be the obvious things that will remind you of emotional times. But also know that you are still here. You got through these emotions once, you can get through them again now, and you will get through them in the future. Then move on with your day and do something else. Don’t let them take control.

Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions

Emotional responses can be a strange set of things. Just when you think you know what your response will be, a completely different reaction will surface. The human mind is resourceful like that. The trick is to allow yourself to feel any emotions that are thrown up. None of your emotions are wrong, just accept them and work through them.

For example, I spent years hating my father. Any mention of his name elicited visions of the party me and my family would have on his grave. Then one year I found myself feeling sorry for him, wondering if he has any regret, whether he was lonely and wondering what he was doing – Where the hell did that come from!!! It really threw me off guard, and took me longer to get to grips with than the usual response.

It’s important to know that the mind is a weird and wonderful place, and some of the things it throws out will be very weird. Remember that what you are feeling is not wrong. Spend a little time (but not too long) thinking through where these thoughts have come from, why you might be thinking them and working through them. Then move on.

Keep a journal

This is really related to the 2 points above. I find my journal a great place to get thoughts out of my head to stop them rattling around in there (it’s like a mental poo!). It’s also a great place to work through anything strange your mind throws out, and to be able to deal with issues in a methodical way.

It’s also good for when the triggers re-occur. You can re-read what you said the last time you went through these feelings and be able to work through your emotions much quicker.

Give yourself something else to focus on.

If it’s a specific event that you know is coming up, make sure you have plans. Even if you don’t think you’ll feel like it, make sure you have other commitments or something else to think about. It can be as mundane as cleaning the house from top to bottom, or something more fun like taking yourself on a day trip. If your mind is busy with something else, you are less likely to be able to dwell on thoughts you don’t want to.

If there isn’t a specific event and your trigger is a spur of the moment thing, then have an arsenal of things you can do to distract yourself when the thoughts crop up. Once you’ve acknowledged the thought, what can you do to move on? Listen to loud music? Get involved in a good book? Go for a run? Knitting? Washing dishes? Have a short-list of go-to activities that you can submerge yourself into completely and not give the triggers any room to take hold.

My ‘something else to focus on’ is my birthday – which is tomorrow! Instead of thinking about someone else’s day, I spend my time planning my own birthday. I’ve got as far as a big fat cake. If it’s as big as I am planning, it’s going to be a very happy (and very sickly) birthday!

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Like this, but bigger and with more chocolate!

Spend time with your friends

Don’t spend time alone, pondering. Get in touch with your friends and spend time connecting with other people. Even if they don’t know your situation and don’t know what you are thinking about, focusing on someone else’s issues is a fantastic way of forgetting about your own. Losing yourself in meaningless chatter and laughter is a fantastic distraction, and having someone else to keep your mind moving doesn’t allow you time to dwell.

Focus on the here and now

Remember that you are thinking about things that happened in the past. You can’t do anything to change things, all you can do is move forward and live your life. Focus on the positives of what you have here and now. Appreciate what you have in your life today. Know that whatever pain you have dealt with in the past can’t hurt you any more – except for if you allow it to.

Speak to someone

If your triggers are just too powerful to deal with on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Someone detached from the situation may be able to give you a fresh insight in to what you are feeling, and help you find new ways of dealing with your triggers and enabling you to move on.

Know that it gets easier with time

The saying that ‘time is a great healer’ isn’t just hearsay. After a while those triggers start to lose their power and you become much more effective at dealing with them. A few years ago, April 17th was a day for having a dark cloud over me. This year, the only time I’ve really thought about it is to write this post. And even then, I’ve turned it in to a positive experience rather than a negative emotion. Know that even if something pops up and knocks you off your feet, it won’t work like this forever. One day you will reach the point where the thought will have disappeared before you can even acknowledge it was there. And each time you work your way though these issues, your confidence will build and you will feel stronger and stronger.

Until then give yourself a break, and do your best to deal with those little reminders without letting them take hold and control your life.

 

On the subject of honesty and sincerity…. Only ‘like’ it if you read it!

If anyone follows my blog or likes my posts, I always check out what they are saying, just in case. I figure that if they like something that I’ve said, then we could have some common ground and I might like what they are writing about. I’m not a massively social person either (bit of a shy introvert here, something for another time though!), so it’s a great way for me to interact with new people that I wouldn’t normally meet.
But the one standard that I ask of myself is that if I’m going to like a post or follow someone, that I actually take time to read the post. See what people have poured their heart and soul and hard work in to. I might not have the time to read everything you say on every post in detail, but I make it a point to keep checking in with anyone I’m following, just to see how things are going and what you have to say (I’m getting better at leaving comments too, rather than just being a lurker!).
 
This morning, I’ve had a fellow blogger check out one of my posts. Always appreciated, I thought I’d check out the only link they have, to their ‘about me’ page. Is it someone just starting out that could do with the support? I wanted to find out…
Instead what I found made me giggle.
An ‘About Me’ page, with the standard WordPress “This is an example of a page” text, and 70 likes from people who obviously haven’t read the page at all. It could have said anything, and all these people would have blindly liked it.
It’s all about having numbers on your blog, just hoping that if you like someone then they will like you back and boost your numbers (and ego). It has nothing to do with whether anyone actually likes and appreciates your content. I’m trying to be optimistic and think that maybe the likes are in anticipation of some good content, but deep down I know my gut instinct is sadly the right one.
I’d rather have a handful of honest and sincere people following my blog who will take the time to check in and read it every once in a while, than have hundreds or thousands of people liking posts that have never been read.
 
I’m tempted to start another blog with a really positive title, and write detestable and offensive blog posts on there –  how Hitler was a nice guy after all, or how all kittens and puppies are actually instruments of the devil. Just to see how many followers and likes I can get. And then maybe hold each person accountable for the things they have liked.
 
How about you? Is it just me being a pickypants with too many hormones this morning, or would you rather have someone ‘like’ your work for the real reasons? 

Don’t try to hide your intentions – be honest!

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I think this guy might have been emailing me….

Just to warn you, this is a bit of a moan. It’s something I keep coming across more and more in the blogosphere, and it annoys me! Honesty and being sincere with your intentions seems to be taking a back seat with more and more emails and blog posts that I read, and I think it’s a dangerous path to go down.

I don’t mind being sold to. Its how we find out about products and services that can benefit our lives, and it’s how people make a living.  Just as long as I know that the person I am investing my time with is being honest and open about their intentions.
But all too often I see people trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and I don’t like it.

There are so many blog posts that I have read recently, from which the title has sounded like it would be an article I might be interested in.
(I realise that this is intentional, that getting someone to click on your link is half the battle, but it doesn’t mean I like it!)

So you’re about to learn ‘5 ways to be a better writer’, ‘hints on how to save money’ and a multitude of other handy titles. You click on the link, find the blogpost, and……. aaarrrggghhh! Within the first paragraph you can see that they have no intention of teaching you anything or imparting their wisdom. They want you to sign up to their subscription service, where there’s a chance you might be given the hints and tips that you’ve been promised, but it’s a gamble.  Or you have to buy the e-book, which is more expensive than anything by an established author where you would have an idea of the quality you would be getting before investing.
Or sometimes, there’s a genuine article there. But it tends to be one which is poorly written and as short as the author could make it. Its only there as a prop for the huge advert that takes over the rest of the page.

I’m sure that these people will think that getting me to read a blog post with the promise of an answer at the bottom will keep me hooked and have me click on the link at the bottom. But that’s not how it works.

What happens is at the first suspicion that all is not what it seems,  I scan to the bottom of the page. I see it’s a sales pitch trying to keep me hooked without giving anything away, and I close the window. I leave the page glad that I’ve only wasted a couple of minutes reading the first few lines rather than investing 10 minutes of my time in reading the whole useless article. But I’m still miffed that I was promised something that hasn’t been delivered.

Unfortunately I’m not just talking about the ’50 year old woman with the facelift secret’ or the ‘weird old diet tip’ (you know what you’re if for if you click those links!). There are supposedly legitimate organisations that do the same thing. All that happens is that I unsubscribe from their email listings and never visit them again, or trust in their services.

There are plenty of sales pitches from bloggers that don’t bother me – Seth Godin and Leo Babauta (at Zen Habits) are the two that spring to mind straight away. Both have recently had new projects to promote, but the difference is both are very honest about it. ‘ Here’s what I have and would like you to buy’, and that’s that. The rest of their posts are informative and interesting, and give me a good idea of what I’d be able to learn from what they are selling.
I am still signed up to both of their blogs and I don’t mind their sales pitch because it is up-front, honest and sincere.
Heck, even I’ve done it on here. The title was ‘Quick shameless plug’ – I don’t think I can be more honest than that!

Hiding your intentions might get you somewhere in the short-term, but people aren’t stupid and will realise what you are up to eventually. When they do, you will have lost them forever. In the long-term I think openness and honesty of your intentions are always going to be the best policies for success, and also for a happier, more fulfilled and satisfying life.
(And the sooner some people on the internet figure that out then the happier I will be!)

Doesn’t time fly when you’re avoiding yourself?!

So firstly I need to apologise for being away for so long – I didn’t realise how many months it had been! My blog had become one of those things that was still very much in my thoughts and I would get around to as soon as things calmed down –  inevitably things never calm down quite enough! But I am well and truly settled now. I’ve moved house to a bight sunny new home (as sunny as the UK can be). The novelty of not working and being a lady of leisure is wearing off and I’m needing something useful to do with my life again. And most importantly I’m finally getting used to the fact that early July I’m going to be a mum!!! (Both well so far, frightened and excited in equal measure, more another time!)
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I now have an awesome space to sit and do my work. Its only the kitchen table,  but it’s perfect for me. It has plenty of sunlight, view of the garden, the background noise of birds, and this is where I feel happiest in the house. So I have no excuse not to sit and do some work.
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I think the one thing I have learned from this is that you need to set yourself a hard time-scale if you are going to take time off.
It’s okay to have time away from things, either from projects or just from yourself and your own thoughts, but right from the beginning you need to set yourself a time limit. Maybe it’s just to take a break for the day. Maybe you need a few weeks or a month to find your focus again. Or maybe it’s going to take you longer than that to make a life-changing decision. Whatever you are taking a break from and whatever the reason, get out your diary or calendar and mark the day you want to pick up where you left off. Flashing lights, bells and whistles, highlighter pen everywhere – anything so you can’t miss it and can’t escape it!
It might be that when the time comes you have changed your mind and you no longer want to continue down that particular path, but at least the decision will have been made. You won’t be thinking ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ and have tomorrow never arrive. Time is a sneaky little thing that disappears before you realise it!
I always wanted to pick up my blog and my other writing where I left off, but up to now I haven’t got around to it. Couldn’t quite get past the little negative nagging voices in my head and procrastinating/avoiding doing anything about them (Again, something for another time). I did set myself certain conditions and once these were fulfilled I knew I would have to get back to this, but in retrospect I think a hard time limit would have been better. It might have got the certain conditions completed a little earlier.
It’s pretty basic stuff I know, and you would think that I would have learned this lesson by now. But everyone makes mistakes. As long as I’m here now I’ll not beat myself up about it too much.