Saturday, September 3, 2011

The "Things Done" List

So. Now that I've gotten my act together and posted all the vacation photos, you're probably wondering what the heck I've been doing for the last two months. And the answer is that I've spent a good part of the summer whacking at my to do list, which had gotten so far out of control the only thing I could do was hide it in a dark closet and start a new list, a 'things done' list.

Do you every feel like you have so much to do, that you don't know where to start? Like just looking at your "To Do" list makes you tired? Like you could work all day and not even make a dent? Or worst of all-- you start something on the list and then find before you can do that, you have to say, move something, and that reminds you that you need to put in the laundry, and the next thing you know, the day is gone, and you haven't made any progress at all on the first thing you set out to do?

Well. This is when I deploy the "things done" list. Clearly, there are some tasks that need to be given priority. But there is nothing more demoralizing than starting with a plan and having no part of it come to fruition- even though you might have done any number of other things that weren't on the list! But having a large number of projects with no fixed deadline is for me, a guarantee of indefinite procrastination.

Coincidentally I just read the best decluttering tip of the year, which is to forgive yourself for having things being in a mess. Let go of the guilt and move on. So, that's been my plan for the summer.

And I'm happy to say that it's been working very well. Every day I try to record at least one 'thing done' in my pocket calendar. It might be a routine chore like dishes or laundry or working on a larger project, or simply taking care of something I've been meaning to do for ages. For example, I have:

a) Scrubbed all the green slime off the garage door (a chore that has been on my 'to do' list since 2002 when I bought the house).

b) Repainted the front door and doorway trim on the back slider (started last summer and not finished).

c) Started the deck rehab – I've completed step 1, scrubbing the black mildew off the deck. I've had good intentions on this one for at least 5 years. Now we're at the pulling nails and replacing damaged boards parts. It's got to get stained and sealed before it gets too cold, but I'm taking it one step at a time.

d) Pruned bushes in the yard and suppressed the bittersweet. This should be done annually, but I didn't get to it last year, and now I'm paying for it. But I'm about halfway around the yard, and have done most of the worst bits.

e) Cut off the ugly miserable stumps of the overgrown boxwoods that I removed in 2003, even with the ground, which makes them much less obtrusive than they were. I filed this one under 'extreme pruning'... I'm not totally sure that they recommend cutting through 8" diameter logs with a Sawzall.

f) Removed the folding cot and the ladder from the upstairs (where they have been littering my husband's office since the great house re-construction of 2006) and returned them to their proper storage locations in the cellar.

g) Cut off several pairs of my husbands' jeans that were holed at the knees, and hemmed them for shorts. They look very neat and he's actually been wearing them to work when it's very hot- handy since he has some distance to walk. I cleared out the pile of mending while I was at it.

h) I picked up a decent table and chairs on freecycle and freecycled a bunch of crappy folding chairs and other junk from the basement. I also have donated many boxes of books to the library book sale and books and other items to the humane society yard sale, clearing out a bunch of closet space.

And best of all? The time I've spent on these chores has largely come out the time I would have spent obsessing unproductively about the amount of stuff on my 'to-do' list. No really. It's true I haven't added a lot of knits to the project list lately, but I've finished some socks, and I've been working on the fine gauge sweater (after getting about two-thirds of the back done, I discovered that my gauge swatch had lied like a rotten lousy lying thing, and I had to frog the whole thing and start over. This is the Guernsey; I'll post photos shortly. And take a look at my Book Reviews for 2011 (also linked in the sidebar)- I'm at 109 books so far this year, which surprises even me a little, what with all the knitting and projects and working full time.

So, if you're a listmaker who's demoralized at the length of the 'to-do' list--and especially if you've ever added a chore you've just finished to your list so you could check off *something*... do consider putting it away and start a 'things done' list. Celebrate the accomplishments instead of focusing on the non-accomplishments. I'm betting that you'll not only feel better about how you've spent your time--you'll actually get more done, too.


  1. I have a "List of Winter Projects" that is growing. Most of them involve things for the next Faire Season and things I would like to get done around the house.

  2. Ha! I definitely put things on my list just so I can check them off :) (The list which is so long that I'm terribly behind on blog reading and commenting, alas.) I like the idea of a things done list, though!

  3. Yes! Exactly. And congratulations on getting all those done.

  4. Wow! No wonder your "to-do" list makes you feel tired. Your "things done" list makes me need to rest!!!!

  5. In my past life as a magazine editor, I used my dayplanner to keep track of what I'd done, which made perfect sense to me. My coworkers, however, thought it was a little strange, but they didn't have that end-of-every-day feeling of accomplishment I got from looking over a whole list of things I'd done, instead of a list of things I'd never quite gotten around to.

    It's kinda how I use my blog now, too, isn't it? Huh.