Ten, Then


I mean, ten was enough for a god, right?

A week or so ago, I set myself the goal of limiting my daily To Do list to twenty items with the idea that if I had fewer things on my list I stood a chance of actually finishing the list, and if I finished my  list of “obligations” I could feel free to use the rest of the day to do whatever the hell I wanted without feeling guilty about not using every single minute productively.

“Remind yourself that you’re not required to produce.” Was the homework from this week’s therapy session. But easier said than done.

The idea of a twenty item To Do list sounded like a good idea at the time, but I’ve since discovered several problems with it:

  • I’m having trouble deciding what kinds of tasks should be included.
  • If I wait until the list is done, it’s too late to do anything else.
  • I still can’t finish it.

One of the reason my To Do lists got so long to begin with was that I kept adding things like “Read book” and “Make Coffee” to them just so that I could feel like my leisure was as valid as my work. By limiting the number of items I can put on my list, I’ve had to examine what I really consider a To Do task: should this be a list of one-time tasks that will disappear once they are accomplished? Should I be including my daily goals that re-set every day, like planking, flossing, writing this blog and going for a run? How do I include (or not include) big obligations like Work which sometimes has down time and sometimes takes a full nine hours of undivided attention? Do I still include leisure activities as To Do tasks?

The jury is still out on all of these questions.

The other problem with this plan is that the time at the end of my day isn’t really “free” time. After finishing work in the early evening I have maybe an hour to an hour and a half of time before dinner. I often use this time to go for a run, putter in the garden, take a shower, and then the rest of my evening goes straight into dinner, time spent with the Curmudgeonly Lion, and cleanup. So, if I wait until the end of the day to use leisure time for a solitary activity like working on arts and crafts or learning a musical instrument or sorting paperclips I would need to wait until after the Curmudgeonly Lion goes to bed, at which time I’m pretty much out of energy. I’m just not a night person.

I did try getting up to go for a run in the morning several days this week, which worked great except that my motivation to go running first thing in the morning is significantly lower than it is at the end of the day when I’m champing at the bit to get outside after spending all afternoon staring longingly out the window at the sunny outdoors. Then again, my energy and motivation was extraordinarily low this week across the board, so it might’ve just been a matter of bad timing.

And the last problem with the twenty item to do list is that I still can’t seem to finish it. Twenty items is just more than I can seem to complete in a day: or, at least, it was more items than I could accomplish during this past week during which energy and motivation were unusually low and stress, work obligations, and outdoor temperatures were unusually high. Which, fine: not all weeks are going to be high-efficiency weeks, but the whole point of this exercise is to figure out what the minimum amount of daily obligation should be so that I can feel both productive AND relaxed/fulfilled.

So maybe it’s time to try limiting my tasks further, to ten items per day, prioritizing the one-time tasks that can be finished. We’ll see if it helps.



~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 1, 2020.

7 Responses to “Ten, Then”

  1. Your therapist…whoever this is…is asking you to give yourself a routine to work on sense of accomplishment and steady your thoughts. Got it. If your life doesn’t already provide you with the routine you had in your school days, give it one. Understood.

    Have you ever seen the show–which recently ended–called The Good Place? I think you and I fit as Chidi characters. 😛

    I would assume the To Do list, should it include more than 10 items…maybe even just five…is reserved for days you do not spend 8+ hours working at a paying job. It seems as if you are confusing literal and figurative concepts given to you, either a reflex of shutting down instead of being productive/consistent, a habit developed over time, often spawning from childhood, or some other psychological deficiency caused by some other stimuli.

    So, consider that. Save the long To Do list for days without paid work shifts and the short list of roughly 5 items for days you DO have that work. That way, you get a smaller yet similar sense of accomplishment on days you might feel work consumes most of your energy.

    I totally agree about taking the run after being cooped up versus trying to power up for exercise and then get anything else productive done. If I exercise early in the day, it would be a new sensation to me and adjust my focus for other matters. I’d probably adapt to that…but it would be an adjustment. [I don’t run…I just walk as fast as I can without strain. I don’t trust myself running, and I seem to get “jiggle” when I run, which is unpleasant.]

    If your week was as cloudy and rainy as mine, you might have a sensitive solar factor in you which requires sunny weather for energy and ambition. That would signal some lack of melatonin and vitamin D? I think.

    I bet the therapist gave you the number 20…and I bet reducing the number to 10 will be viewed as making excuses…along with your other excuses. 🙂 But, that’s us. That’s how we currently roll. And, I know, or, I’m sure…we can do better.

    • Actually, none of this was particularly therapist driven- it was my idea to limit the list and I chose the numbers myself. The real goal is for me to remind myself I don’t have to use every waking minute of my life to Produce Results

      • I know you limited/reduced the list. I just presumed a therapist suggested the initial list of 20 items. Maybe you were at the grocery store and daydreaming while looking at the express lane (15/20 items or less) and thought of the list idea.

        Hey, I got a less-hand-drawn TP red carpet set of images ready to post, if you want to check them out. I had initially drawn a rough sketch of my idea…but, not entirely content with my drawing skills, I got sidetracked and stayed up late last night crafting what I’m now posting.

      • Where is it posted? I’m excited to see

      • Apparently you looked as I was posting. I should have commented after it was posted. 😛 Now, you come up with your own red carpet comic strip or funnies.

      • Yay! These are marvelous! Very different from what I was expecting. Give me a few days to put together some of my own- stay tuned

      • I know…I was expecting myself to HAND DRAW the faux celebrities in TP fashions. And, I still plan on taking a stab at that. I did a rough sketch and was deeply upset with my rusty skills. That may have curbed my eagerness to draw the whole thing, too. But, I stayed up late one night to craft that mad lot.

        Okay, I will look for your take in your “feed.” 🙂 Now, I have something to look forward (to).

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