I am a chronic maker of lists. You should see the chaos that is my Google Keep, a mess of immediate and short-term and long-term and unknowable-term tasks all jumbled together with lists of ideas and movies I want to watch.
When things get really hairy, as they did during law school, I find myself making to-do lists that get as granular as “eat breakfast” and “shower.” Even, on dismally rough days, “go to class.” Because there is an unmatchable joy that comes from crossing something off, even if my life is otherwise a dumpster fire.
It has never so far gotten quite as bad as having to remember to “breathe” and “sleep,” but never say never.
There is a push-pull relationship between me and the lists. Part of me delights in writing them down, because in that moment it feels like proof of the delicious possibility of the future. Look at me—I’m going to run five miles and write five chapters of a book after work on Tuesday, after I cook myself dinner! God, I’m unstoppable.
But then, inevitably, Tuesday-after-work shows up, and I’m exhausted from work and also pretty cold and hungry, and I rebel against that taskmaster who assigned me the run and the writing project and the cooking assignment. I eat packaged ramen and watch Netflix and feel both free and kind of nauseous.
Or, I do get the thing done, and it feels completely virtuous and exciting. So that encourages me to keep doing this list thing.
This is all about time, once again, I realize. For me in list-making mode, the future is knowable, controllable, and the me who lives in the future is a lot more energetic and driven than the me who lives in the present tends to be. I suppose that’s optimism, of a kind.
But consider these wise words from a woman who has been helping me reconsider my relationship to time:
View this post on Instagram
What’s your relationship with time like? I used to be brutal to my friend, Time. The poor dear! She’d get whiplash from me barking orders and screaming mixed messages at her:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • ⏰ Please make foster care move faster. Ok now let it move slower.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⏰ Can you slow down on my Dad’s health deterioration? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⏰ And can we speed it up on how fast my business builds? • Then one day it hit me: what if she’s working in my favor? What if it’s all happening at a divinely orchestrated timing that won’t make sense until years from now as it often does? How much more pleasurable would this PRESENT moment be? In that moment Time finally whispered back at me: “Yes! Thank you for trusting me. I’ve got this. No need to rush anybody along or slow anyone down. Especially you. Instead just sit back, relax, and savor the present view.” •⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Join me? Commit to trusting Time. She’s one cool lady when you let her have your back. She really knows what’s up! •⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #mindsetcoaching #successcoach #empoweryou #empowereachother #begoodtoyou #createdformore #theimperfectboss #femtrepreneurs #findyourbliss #iamwellandgood #boldbraveyou #startwithwhy #mplsblogger #confidentwoman #minnstagrammer #selfesteemboost #confidencecoach
Something I’ve been working on to improve my general well-being is being a little less about the task list, and more about the task. Break things up into smaller and smaller bits. And consider: is this something I really want to get done? Would this be enjoyable, or is this the kind of thing that I will resent myself for having assigned, and toss it out the window once it comes time to do it?
But I’m not ready to go totally cold-turkey on lists and goals. Because, at the end of the day, there are a lot of things I want to do—and I do believe in future Kate. I’m just realizing that I can’t assume that she’s going to wake up on Wednesday with 200% of the energy that she usually has on a Wednesday. Or that the laws of physics are going to change on Wednesday so that she’ll have 40 hours in which to do things.
To that end, I spent some time last week setting achievable but ambitious goals for the next half-year, based on Sarajane Case’s goal workshop. She suggests doing four goals in different categories (such a career, health, creativity, and happiness).
1. Career goal: let’s be honest, it’s not a goal about the career I do for money. That one is more or less taking care of itself. (Some days more, some days…less.) This goal is about querying Book One. “Querying” is the process of finding an agent, which involves sending letters to literary agents who represent similar books. If they’re interested, they might request a sample or all of the manuscript. Eventually, if an agent thinks they can sell the book, they agree to represent the author, and they begin to shop they book around to editors and publishers. So in the next six months, I want to complete my edits to Book One, polish up my query letter, identify a list of agents who might be interested, and send the query to at least a handful of agents.
2. Health goal: I’m attempting again to get back into running, mainly to increase the amount of exercise and fresh air I get. So: in 6 months’ time, I’d like to be comfortably able to run a 7.5k, roughly 5 miles. I’m using a Couch-to-10k app, and so far I am enjoying the encouragement to actually get outside and breathe fresh air during the day (what a concept).
3. Creativity goal: an idea for a new historical-fiction book grabbed me by the brain stem a few weeks ago and won’t let go. In addition to finishing edits on Book One, finishing an SFD of Book Two (which I’m maybe 75% of the way through), and maybe writing a few short stories (which I might “publish” here, because why not?), my big creativity move in 2020 is going to be Book Three. It’s a big boy in terms of research and planning. A daunting fella. But in 6 months, I hope to have a semi-detailed outline for its plot and characters that will guide my research, and I want to have read at least one research book for it.
4. Happiness goal: finding a therapist that I like, and going at least once a month. Everyone needs therapy. Therapy, therapy, therapy.