Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Do You 'To Do?'

I think I have been down this path before
but it is an ever evolving journey so
I am visiting it again.

I am a list maker.
And as I get older, I don't trust my brain to keep things for very long.
("very long" being 5 minutes - and
sometimes as short as the time it takes to get across my condo.)

It is fair to say that if it isn't on my To Do list, 
it doesn't have a chance of getting done.

In fact, I have had to resist the impulse to put Get Dressed on the To Do list,
 because somedays if I am not stepping out the door - 
I get to 2:00 in the afternoon, look down, and find I am still in my PJs and slippers.
It just wasn't on the list!!

My way of keeping organized has changed over the years.  Maybe it is a reflection of age, maybe it is a consequence of a less busy life, or maybe I just get bored with one way of doing things and want to try another.

I am always curious about how others maintain order in their lives.  While almost all keep some type of a list, it looks different for each individual.  I thought I might share my 3 step process to an orderly life and would love to hear what yours is.

Mine starts with the Step #1 - the bedrock  ....

The Big Wall Calendar

The appointments, engagements, baby / dog sitting, shopping trips, birthdays ... all go on a large wall calendar.  This works pretty good if I actually LOOK at the calendar!  Ah, that's the rub.  Looking.  Sometimes I wish my calendar was actually the size of a wall or so big as to be impossible to miss from space.

Without this calendar hanging right in my face - the future is just a big black hole.  And very very important ... those dark daily strike outs help me keep track of exactly what day it is!  Sincerely, once you have been retired for a number of years, knowing the day of the week without a prompt can be chancy.  I live in fear that one day I will sit across from a Neurologist who is checking me for dementia and he will start his little check list of questions by asking me what day it is.  If I didn't check my calendar before leaving the house - my response will be, "Can I get back to you on that?" or "Who cares what day of the week it is.  That is just a label and I am not into labels. " or, my personal favorite ... "Do you know what day of the week it is?  You first."  I am pretty sure that none of those responses will be good answers.  Just to paint a complete picture of this - my son or daughter would be sitting beside me rolling their eyes!!

In fact, I remember just such an appointment with my mom 10 years ago - the doctor asking various questions, and I was sitting beside mom who was attempting to answer them, and as I listened (not rolling my eyes) I realized with a little anxiety - that I would need to study up for this dementia quiz myself!!!  I won't stop rehearsing my deflection responses to this question - you know, just in case!!

So a big bold calendar is step #1.  (Checking it every morning is step #1.5.)

Step #2 is the heart ...

The To Do Lists

"To Do" lists are different animals entirely.

I used to keep daily To Dos in a bound book similar to the Bullet Style Journal - where you hand write in the daily To-Dos and checked them off as 'complete' or marked them as 'forwarded' to the next day if not completed. There were many other symbols to use on each 'to do' in that system of organization.  But mostly I completed or finished an item.  I used that method when we bought and sold property and it was a life saver that year.

Previous to that in my professional life - before the world went crazy over electronic options -  I kept a large 8x10 loose leaf binder book in a leather case - very expensive if I remember correctly - like a Steven Covey or Day Timer book - with my entire life within its covers.  Lots of fancy pre-made inserts with many many spaces to fill.  It was an Epic Tome that was inches thick and very impressive!!  It sort of announced to all - I am a busy important person with so many balls in the air I must write them all down inside this expensive leather binder that has my name on it!!

Did you ever have one of those?

But life changes and so does your perspective on stuff.  I have reverted back to my old friend - the simple  3 x 5 index card - for the day-to-day stuff.  Almost everything goes on the card.  My life has become so simple - no job, no property transactions, no nothing - (thank God!!) the index card works just fine (as long as I don't lose it.)  Besides - on the index card I can be brutal.  Putting a small X or a check mark beside a completed item just isn't good enough.  Even a line through the words isn't good enough.  For me 'completed' has to be a Statement of Fact - an emphatic bold magic marker crossing out the existence of the To-Do entirely so it cannot be seen ever again.   "I am done with you To Do ... never to see you again."  "You other To Dos ... live in fear ... you too will be entirely obliterated with a bold line very soon."  Well ... as soon as I get off my new LazyBoy chair.  :-)

When a card is complete - full of bold strike out marks - I rip that card up in a bunch of tiny little pieces and pitch them into the trash - a final assault on that offending list.  Of course, another to-do 3x5 card list has already been born so the process starts all over again.

The 3x5 card is a flexible tool as well.  It starts out with the day of the week on top (mini-dementia quiz to see if I remember without the big calendar, Ha!) with my list of to-dos.  If I don't complete them on Monday, I simply add the next day to the top of the card.  The card might start out as a Monday card, but end up as a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday card.

If the to-do card (step #2) gets stalled, (like I lose the card), then I try to recreate the list from memory - and you can imagine how well that goes when I sometimes need prompts for identifying the day of the week.

(I sure said a whole bunch of stuff about the simple 3x5 card!!  Maybe I should write a book!  Ha!)

Lastly - step #3 - the big picture ...

The Reference Book

My big picture is smaller these days!  But I still need a slightly larger and more permanent tool to house it in.   It is called the Reference Book.  This book is still in development.  I keep forgetting to develop it - but I have purchased the book - all new and shiny - with many lovely blank pages just waiting for me - in lovely bright orange cover which should be easy to find if when I misplace it.  

I even have a matching orange case to store it in (the case is not new but how serendipitous that I had it and the color was a match.). The cover doesn't have my name on it.  I consider that a plus and a minus.  The plus - that I have evolved from needing any status symbols.  The minus - if I forget my name I have no prompt!!  Ha!  But it does have all the lovely pockets for stuff - and a place for pens. And it zips closed.  

The book will house all the information that is spread over the course of a year - or longer - stuff like big projects, items in development, plans for hobbies, future goals or big tasks, activities that need tracking, budgets, birthdays, anniversaries, quotes I love, or stuff that is just stuff and fits no where else.

While Step #3 isn't as important as the first two steps in getting through a single day, it would be a big loss if misplaced or destroyed.  It would be like losing detailed road map while on a trip in a strange  large city.

So ... 
Do you Calendar or To Do?
Do you use a specific method for organizing your activities like To Dos?
Do you talk to your To Do List ... threatening it ... like I do?
Do you know what day it is?
 (and no cheating by checking your calendar.)


Marie Smith said...

This post speaks to me. I have a calendar book on my dest for appointments, babysitting times, etc. The list on the refrigerator is for shopping items and a small version of your last book rests on a table by the couch.

I forget what day it is often. Itis a perk of retirement I figure. When anyone asks me a question and I can’t retrieve the information, I ask, “How soon do you want to know?” I will remember the answer later.

May as well have some fun with it.

Michelle said...

I do know what day it is, but have a kid in school and am not retired, so lots of prompts. I write out a "to do" list most days on a piece of recycled paper, but don't have a satisfactory way to keep track of future commitments outside my getting-less-reliable mind. I don't have a good spot for a wall or desk calendar (I loved the latter when I used a desk), haven't picked up a 2019 pocket calendar for my purse yet, and can't seem to make the switch to electronic versions like so many have.

happyone said...

I have a calendar where I kept track of dates that we have things to do and birthdays.
Once in a while I will make a to do list but that's it. I mainly do the same things every day so don't have to have a list.

Leigh said...

Great post! Definitely a list writer here. And like you, if it isn't on the list it likely won't get done. Ditto for shopping lists. If it isn't on the list it likely won't get bought! I have a couple of small spiral bound notebooks from Dollar Tree that I use for my daily lists, if I can remember where I last set them down. (That's the reason I have more than one :) More and more I just use the back of an old envelope. Not as spiffy looking as your index cards, but they work for me. My calendar is mostly for note taking: rainfall amount, temp highs and lows, when the cats need flea medicine, or what I planted in the garden. When our kids were still at home the family had a weekly calendar meeting and we'd coordinate activities. That worked well for the four of us.

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