I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about a topic that tends to come and go in my life. It is one that always seems a bit hard to put into words. I can remember a time almost ten years ago when I was sitting on our bed in a loft we were living in. I had this surreal moment when I looked around and thought: all these things happening in my life are all a distraction to get me to not look at the painful stuff. A clearer thought was: working through the painful stuff is what moves you forward to that next level of understanding. It was not a fun time in my life. That day I was alone. Chris was traveling in China and life felt rough, bumpy, and not much fun.
The conversation from a few weeks ago circled back to that same feeling. Do we all have the craziest of lives because it keeps us distracted from the real and raw stuff we are supposed to be looking at the most? We do not want to so we stay hyper-focused on all that we have to do? We stay extremely busy, and then we never have to get really quiet and listen to that voice inside that tells us where we should really be looking? It has been true for me from time to time. I like to think that I am still listening even between all the many responsibilities and deadlines. Am I lying to myself though? Is it really possible? Or do you just need to walk away from it all, whether for a week, or month to really be able to see inside?
I just finished reading a book called “Dinner with Buddha” by Roland Merullo. At first it was a hard book to read. I could not get into it, and then as I found a few morsels of inspiration I was pulled into the quiet, thoughtful ideas inside. While it is a novel, it reads like a self-help book. There were quite a few ideas that come from the story and analogies the author shares. This idea in particular resonated as it made me think of that day ten years ago, and the conversation from a few weeks ago:
“Plugging along at monk-speed, I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t all some kind of trick we were playing on ourselves. Maybe the more we crammed into a day the less we actually experienced. Maybe the addictive hurry was all a kind of racing away from our existential predicament, as if we could outrun old age and death, and as though, if we kept busy enough, kept moving, traveled farther, checked more items off the to-do list on any given day, then, like astronauts in orbit, we’d escape the bonds of ordinary time. Or escape, at least, the manic workings of our minds.” Page 118-119
Is that truly why we do so much? We are trying to get away from our minds and true thoughts? I sure hope not, but I can see it being true. I know it from the tricks my mind plays on me. Yet I want so badly to slow down, stop moving, get rid of the to-do list and live moment by moment into what my mind wants me to learn, however painful as it may be to look into all that is there for me to learn.
The holidays bring about different sides of people. For some it is a happy time, where Christmas music, lights, parties, and family all fill their free time. For others the holidays can be a time of obligations, shopping, crowds, and absolute craziness a.ka. stress. On top of all that there could be added stress from work, expectations from family, and even the reality of making sure those in your life have a memorable holiday. I wonder though, is it all worth it?
What expectations have we put on ourselves that are unrealistic? Is it fun to feel so stressed for a holiday? Between finding the right gifts, to wrapping and mailing them, to Christmas cards, parties, food, and keeping up with traditions it is a lot of pressure to do it all and make it all happen. Why do we do it? Is it wanting to give and ensure your family has an amazing holiday? Would they care if you dropped off a few responsibilities?
My stress level has definitely risen these last few weeks. There is a lot going on at work, and our home to-do list seems to be never-ending. Whether it is something for the holidays, or the yard, or something needs to be fixed, or we are trying to get all our year-end eye and dentist appointments complete before December 31. I am ready to get off the 2014 roller coaster and breathe.
In between all the stress and to-do’s on your list, be sure to take time for yourself. Get a massage (I mean it)! Take a bath, put your feet up. I am going to do all those things over the holiday. While it is an important time to be with family, indulge in amazing holiday treats, and give, give, give, make sure you give to yourself. Rest, recharge, and be ready for 2015. I have a hunch it will start with a bang and you will be ready if you have taken some time to refuel.
Not everything in life has to be perfect. Yes, I just said that. Some of you that know me might think of me more on the side of wanting things a certain way, and I do but not everything. There are some things that matter more than others. I can name a list of things that I could care less about, such as: which way the toilet paper goes (I am careful about it for Chris’ sake) or ironing clothes (I just choose never to iron anything). I could go on.
This past long, holiday weekend was relaxing. Sure we did a ton of stuff around the house, and mostly in the front and back yard, but all in the vein of taking care of our house. We noticed a shrub was looking shabby and almost 99% decided that we would take it out and plant peonies in its place. As we started to look at the shrub we realized that actually it just needed some TLC. We started to cut it back and found that much of the underside was dead or had dead limbs. We cut it back, and it is now starting to have a life of its own. We still do not know what kind of bush it is, but at the moment we are keeping it and seeing what a little love can do for it. The peonies have already been purchased, so they will go in front of the shrub or a new spot in the yard.
The To-Do list is a lot smaller, a lot has been accomplished, and well my muscles are sore from all the pruning, weeding, and cleaning of the yard. It is not perfect, but I feel like we have done our due diligence to take care of our home inside and out. Do I wish we slept in a bit longer? Sure. Do I wish we watched more movies? Of course. At the end of the day, it feels nice to have worked hard, and taken care of the home (inside and outside) that I see, but also for those that walk by our yard each day, or come to visit us.
It does not have to be perfect. What matters most is that we care. We love our home, we care that it looks kept up for those walking down the street. Whether we can keep up with all the mole holes is an entirely different blog post, but to be able to share the beauty of a yard, and know that you took good care of it, means so much more to me. I know sappy, but it is true. A yard can be a work of art, or it can be a landfill. It is all in how we take care of it.
You are bombarded with items on your to-do list. Some are large-scale projects, some have longer time lines than others, and then you have all those pesky little details you have to track. Call ____ back, email ____, follow-up on ____. There are days when my to-do list is mind-boggling, and there is not enough time in the day to get through the list. How do I coordinate and prioritize what I need to do each day?
First, I am old school. I still work with a notebook. My phone, pen, and notebook are always with me when at work. My phone keeps me up-to-date on emails, texts, and phone calls during the day and alerts me if any priorities have to shift. I might not have time to respond or handle a request, but based on the individual and the urgency of the need, I can still respond quickly (during a lull in a meeting or while walking to my next meeting) and let the individual(s) know when they can expect a response from me. My notebook keeps me on target with what I need to get done. I should also own stock in Post-Its. On the front of my notebook there is a Post-It, and sometimes there are many Post-Its. Anything that makes it to the front of my notebook means it has been escalated to: “needs to happen today or this week.” Somehow this process works for me. Yes, I go through quite a few Post-Its, but I find that colorful, visible reminders help me tackle what needs to happen each day. My iPhone is great, but it does not yell at me in the same way.
3. If not, where does it fit relative to the other tasks?
4. Is someone waiting on me for this?
5. If so, when do they need it?
6. Does working/not working on this now have long-term consequences that I’m missing?”
I thought these were great questions that can be asked each day (and throughout the day). Sometimes there are so many items on my to-do list that I just want to be able to cross them off so I do not have to look at them anymore. Other times I want to focus on getting all the little things done so I can feel like I can focus on the larger projects and not have to think about the nitty-gritty.
My new favorite app: Any.do. Thank you to a colleague that share this app with me! Yes, I am a dork and love the app that keeps me organized. At the moment I have two apps that keep me organized. The one I have had longer is Wunderlist. I use it for those long-term lists. For example: I keep a list of restaurants we want to venture to at some point. When I learn of a new one, or receive a recommendation for one, I add it to my Wunderlist Restaurant list. I have another list for movies I want to see, and television shoes I want to catch up on.
For the day-to-day items I use Any.do to keep me on track. Here are a few reasons why I love Any.do:
I can schedule reminders to pop-up on my phone and remind me that I need to complete the task.
Any.do syncs with my iPhone calendar. If I turn the phone into landscape mode, I can see my tasks connected with my calendar.
I can make a note to call someone with Any.do and then when it is time to make my call, I can call right within Any.do.
If I would like to add something to my to-do list in Any.do, I can speak my to-do item via the “audio” function on their to-do list.
At 10 a.m. each morning I get a notification on my iPhone that it is time to plan my day. A nice reminder to think about what needs to be done.
I can move to-do items to a later day just by dragging the item.
Chris and I can share an account, so I can add items to the list specific for Chris when he opens the app on his iPhone (and vice versa for me).
There is an extension for Chrome, so you can use it on your computer and iPhone (I have yet to use the Chrome functionality yet).
Both Any.do and Wunderlist keep me organized in different ways. What iPhone apps do you use to keep you organized? #keepmeposted