Undermining Overwhelming

To-do lists are my energizing principle. Where there is a to-do list, there is a path of action. This week is lining up to be busy. With a class last Saturday, and class coming up in Madeline Island, the to-do list was getting long. The class on Saturday was the same one that kicks off the week-long retreat, so I couldn’t sent the packages ahead. They needed to be packed on Sunday and shipped on Monday. Today, as you read it.

Meanwhile, I’m teaching all day on Tuesday, and have to create two flyers foroverwhelmed upcoming in-person classes, put the finishing touches on the poetry class, write the ad for that, too. There are coaching clients this week, a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription I need for the trip, I have eight articles due this week, nine if you count the new one for Somerset Studio.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And for a while, it looked like I would. That’s the job of a to-do list, too. It’s not just what you has to happen, it also helps me know when each step has to be done. What looks overwhelming when you see the length of the list can look different from another perspective.

The other end of my logo.

The other end of my logo.

The key to not panicking is to do one thing at a time, and focus on that. Today’s task was creating the final schedule for the class, day by day. From that, I created a packing list, then put all the items on the kitchen table, checking them off as I go, and packing them. It did take six hours, and every time I began to wonder how I’d get through writing the articles, I reminded myself to focus on what I was doing right now. Tomorrow I will tackle what needs to be done tomorrow.

No worrying about what isn’t done tomorrow while I still have work to do today. Tomorrow is set up, and I need to work through the list. Feeling overwhelmed comes from thinking I have to do everything at once. As long as my focus is on the task at hand, I can stay in action and move ahead.

True, there is not much wiggle room. But then again, if I move in a straight line, it should work. And that makes me feel . . .not overwhelmed.

–Quinn McDonald needs to cook hummingbird food and then she can go to bed.


14 thoughts on “Undermining Overwhelming

  1. Something no one has touched on here is the idea that “To-Do” lists are ways to set goals and accomplish them. Even though a goal is often a long term objective, TO-DO lists can be used to break down goals in to achievable tasks that move us towards our ultimate goals.

    Of course having said that I have to admit to writing lists and happily ignoring them because I have chronic procrastination syn…oh look a squirrel!

    • HAHAHA! My to-do list has nothing on it that takes more than 20 minutes to half an hour. That’s how I chew through the day. And I have a to-DON’T list, a list of things I will not do or should not do today. It’s useful, too.

  2. I´m a list maker. A paper list maker so I can cross off things with different colours. 😉
    That being said I have an extra teen at home that rapidly transformed into two extras and sometimes four. My phone keeps bleeping with their change of plans and I keep changing meals for four. to three, to five. One week down, seven to go. IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan

  3. Ooooohhhhh…..lists…….to do lists, to be lists, grocery lists, shopping lists, appointment lists, get this, get that lists! I know them all. I am a list maker.
    My kids who are now in their late thirties and forties grew up making lists as I thought of things to write down while driving. Now my grandchildren do it! The up side is that I not only make them I use them and that’s the key. Lot’s of people make lists and then lose them or ignore them.
    These days I’m really getting with the program. I use an app called “color note” on my phone. Very handy but I still keep my ongoing magnetic notepad on the frig. It’s a survival tactic. When life is just buzzing like bees all around me, I feel at peace because I’ve got it all written down and nobody and nothing will be forgotten.
    List making is another one of those things the kids (people) in my life will remember about me….in a good way, I hope!

    • We write to remember and we write to forget. Keeping a to-do list allows you to forget because it’s there for you. I have a note list on my phone, but I’m a big believer in one list, one way. And I still like paper lists.

  4. I have a strange relationship with to-do lists. I use them for immediate, short-term tasks, but don’t use them at all for anything longer or more complex. I can “serialize” things to a certain extent, but beyond that I’m constantly (sometimes uncomfortably) aware of “many moving parts” and to-do lists just don’t seem worthwhile or helpful.

    Maybe it’s just that to-do lists are useful right up to the point that you have to think about them, and right then their helpfulness drifts away like fog.

    • I don’t have long-term items on my to-do list, either. It’s clearly a short- to medium-term list for me. I might put something on it that I would otherwise forget, but that is likely to wind up on the calendar. “Start the writing class for XYZ” months before its due, and then it becomes a to-do list item.

  5. I have been learning to beat the overwhelm in a similar fashion. I block out specific times each week for various tasks. When I am doing something else and that urge to panic comes because I have so much to do and maybe I should be doing a different something right now, then I remind myself that I already have that scheduled for another day and time. I don’t need to jump around from one thing to another because it is on the schedule. Yes, sometimes I don’t schedule enough time, but I can always work a bit longer or if it isn’t urgent, I can add it in on another day.

  6. Maybe I can help take an item off your to do list in the future.

    Regarding your note about cooking hummingbird food. I got a no cook recipe recommended by the San Pedro Riparian Natural Consrrvation Area when I was at their Visitor Center last winter. I have used it since. Happy hummers, happy me. If you’re interested, let me know. Big time saver, no extra heat in the kitchen!

    • Thanks, Bo, I have the recipe for no-cook. Our water company adds a lot of chlorine in the summer, and I need to off-gas it along with some occasional higher levels of things that don’t do well for hummingbirds. I don’t boil, and I make a lot at a time, so it’s more of a time thing than a temperature thing.

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