Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Joy of Checking Off

This morning, I have had to correct a double-booking, and I'm late for everything.  This will, therefore, be a brief post.  But nonetheless significant, as it deals with an important discovery I have made about keeping myself on track.  Of course, as with many such "discoveries," like fire and the wheel, others have been here before me.  So it should come as no surprise--but it does surprise me--that (drum roll, please) I get more done, and feel better about everything, when I keep a written to do list.  

Even though just about everyone who writes and speaks about procrastination and personal organization touts the to do list as an essential practice, I thought maybe I was different.  I tend to think of myself as the exception to many, though not all rules; as a bohemian of sorts.  And I have clung to my self-conception as a "flibbertigibbet, a will-o-the-wisp" (but not a clown, like Maria of The Sound of Music, whose song gives us these descriptions), a spontaneous free spirit who does not flourish under stricture.  And that persona does not welcome the routine of writing down tasks, and crossing them off when completed.  Or looking at a list when the day has passed, and seeing too few items checked.

But it turns out I was wrong.  In the past couple of months, I have been "list-less" as well as listless, for several weeks, corresponding to the time that I was sick and able to do only what was absolutely required while spending all available energy recovering.  I have recently returned, in the past couple of weeks, to keeping a daily to do list in the calendar purchased for this purpose at the beginning of this "year of wonders."  (Not to be confused with the excellent novel of the same name, by Geraldine Brooks, about a community, and one woman in particular, besieged by the Plague in 1666.) 

And guess what?  My mood has improved, and my focus has been activated, and my ability to get necessary things accomplished upgraded!  Who knew?  Apparently, some part of me (maybe the part with the overtaxed memory?  the part who has difficulty staying in my own life?) responds to the discipline inherent in this daily ritual.  

Probably another aspect of the to do list's utility to me is my anachronistic enjoyment of all  things stationery--pens of various styles and writing feel, paper products designed to stimulate organizational enterprise, and the process of sitting down to write.  And then there's the satisfaction of filling the little boxes with check marks--kind of like getting a little gold star.  Ah!  See, I'm good after all.  Or good enough, anyway.

And that turns out to be how I catch the "cloud" that is me and "pin it down."

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