Monday, February 04, 2013

Minute By Minute

Let's hear it for the lowly list. Lists were probably the first thing early man scrawled down when the written word was invented. Milk, eggs, bread - it's written on the walls at Lascaux. Cavewomen wrote things like "fix hole in cave wall, move stone wheel to garage"
You may prefer to make lists on an electronic device. You can even speak your list into your device and it will write the list for you. I'll not go into my regrets over the demise of handwriting and whether lists should be handwritten or not, or the personal satisfaction I get from scribbling out items once they've been accomplished.
I've been a list maker for a while know but last week I decided to step it up a notch. 
Be in the moment. That advice is dispensed all the time by loads of different people and it's sage.
But how do we go about being in the moment? Stop what we're doing and sit down? Can we only be "in" moments that are quiet? But what about all the sh*t we've got to get done? Mind numbing sh*t, the sh*t of everyday life. How we usually get through it is by thinking of something else. For me that something else is the thing I'm going to do next, the thing I should be doing perhaps instead of what I'm doing right now. This idea leads me to stop the thing I'm doing before it's completed so I can get started on the next thing, only to leave that thing as well when I suddenly notice something else. Later I'll go back to finish all the things I left partially undone. Usually things get done but it's a scattered, unsatisfactory, and exhausting process.
Hence the list. Write everything down. Large and small. Stuff that needs to be done every day and stuff that's specific to the day in question. Now I often make these kinds of lists. Not religiously mind you. I'll designate a steno pad from work as the to do list but ultimately I'll confuse it with the steno pad I keep real notes on and I'll write to do items on each of them which means I can't go back to a previous list on Saturday when I finally finish an item I wrote down on Tuesday. Another problem is that I'll make the list at night before bed. I'll sit and try to think of what needs to be done the next day and I can't think of the ten things that were rattling around in my head earlier. What I need is an ongoing list. So the rules of list making this week were that items on the list could be finished out of order but that it was against the rules to go on to another task until the one being worked on was complete. Now, what would normally happen is that I'd be hanging laundry up and I'd look down to notice (gasp!) all the crud on the laundry room floor. This needs to be swept up I'd say to myself and then I'd put down the damp, size 4T striped shirt and pick up the broom. Because if I don't at least start on the sweeping immediately, I'll forget it needs to be done at all until I come into the laundry room again and (gasp!) have the dirt revelation happen all over again. Under the rules of the new game I can't stop what I'm doing and tackle the sweeping, but I can get it out of my head by writing it down on the list. Then, with the idea of sweeping out of my head, I can get back to the laundry - and - the laundry gets done better, because instead of thinking of what I've got to do next (sweeping), I can think about the laundry. I can turn all the socks and footie pajamas right side out which constitutes a marked improvement over leaving them and then having my tired kids be unable to stick their feet into them and loose their cool over it right before bedtime.
Even walking upstairs and picking up items that are on the stairs because they are in need of being put away is off limits. Instead of picking up a Matchbook car or pair of sneakers and then forgetting the original reason for going upstairs in the first place, the exercise is instead to write on the list "clean up stairs."
You know what the Buddhists say. If you're folding laundry, fold laundry. If you're sweeping the dining room, sweep the dining room. The Buddhists are good at dispensing advice that seems obvious that on second thought is easier said that done.
The first day I followed this list-making regime not only did I get loads of items on the list done, including dinner prep, make pumpkin bread, and paint rocks, but I had time to sit and watch part of The Empire Strikes back with H, C and a friend who were home early on the half day. I even got in a walk around the block (it was on the list).
I may be pushing it but I believe that I might get the same amount of stuff done by using either method but by putting those thoughts down on the list instead of leaving them to clutter my head, I'm freed up - lighter if you will. Concentrating on one thing at the time is less tiresome and more rewarding than multitasking. 

song: Minute by Minute • artist: Doobie Brothers

1 comment:

Larissa T. said...

Lists are AWESOME! I'm pretty much an addict of making lists... haha.. Whatever works best, right? (:

Thanks for linking up!