Tool For Tuesday: Throw Out Your To Do List

My friend Joelle (the one who has a bad case of Tongue-Fu) is going through a tough time with her divorce. Every day, she feels overwhelmed by all the things she has to do and underwhelmed when it comes to doing them.

“I have a To Do List that’s a mile long,” she said. “I have to get my life in order. I have to get my finances in order. I need to get a car, pay my bills, get a job, get orga—”

“Stop!” I interrupted. “First of all, you’re not going to change the world over the weekend. If you want to get your life organized, get your day organized.”

“I have so much on my To Do List.”

“Throw it away.”

“I can’t do that! Then I’ll never get anything done!”

“Make a schedule instead,” I said. Then I told her the reasons why:

If you have a schedule, you have real order to the day. You know what you’re doing and when. If you’re not thinking straight (which often happens when you’re overwhelmed and distracted by problems) break it down to 15 minute-compartments. You can do things for 15 minutes. You can.

If you have “fold laundry” on your list, the chore stares you in the face until you cut it down to manageable size by figuring out how long, really, folding laundry should take. I compare it to songs. A big basket of laundry takes me about three good Bob Dylan songs—half of “Blood on the Tracks.” Paying bills might take six or seven great Bruce Springsteen songs. Sweeping my kitchen takes Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.”

If you have a schedule, then you avoid the WDIDN Moment, or “What Do I Do Next?” Moment. When that strikes, I know that I can spiral into self-pity and feeling overwhelmed in equal measure. Schedules are great when I’m feeling blue because if I stick with it, then I feel a wee bit better about me own self. Remember, positive acts build self-esteem.

When Joelle and I made her schedule for that day, she originally wrote, “3-5 see granddaughter.” Then she realized that if she did that, then she wouldn’t get to swim in the pool before it closed.

“I want to be a good grandma but I also want to swim…” she thought out-loud. In looking at her schedule, she rearranged it. She went swimming first and then went to read a story to her granddaughter later in the evening.

Remember, don’t worry about being a good grandma, mother, spouse, sister, daughter, son, father, brother. Worry about being a good you. The rest will follow.

You’ll get the big part of your life organized if you stay focused on the small part. What you can do today.

And the best part is you can always change your schedule around. You’re the boss! This is time management at its finest!

Throw out your To Do List. Make a schedule for today.

Like Amy Winehouse? I did. This blog is a tribute to her. How sad. How much talent gone. Like my friend Ralph says, “Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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2 Responses to Tool For Tuesday: Throw Out Your To Do List

  1. I’m not really into ‘To Do lists’, so this caught my eye. I prefer ‘won’t do’ lists…don’t want to do stuff that only holds me back.
    be good to yourself

  2. TO DO lists get important things done, but sometimes the most important thing you can write on a TO DO list is “stop, take a deep breath, and go back to bed if necessary.” Divorce is a horrible drain and an ongoing pain for awhile; be there for your friend and keep telling her to take it one step at a time, and only when the steps feel like they’re in the right direction.

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