Quick nugget today. I haven’t written much about my task management system, 10 steps to a badass To Do List because I consider it kind of a proprietary system that, once upon a time, pre pandemic, I was writing a book about. But there is one To Do List adjacent topic I want to discuss today, as it has cropped up in my life heavily in the last few weeks.
Whatever your system is for keeping track of the things you need to get done, or if you don’t have a system, those things probably cause you anxiety when there are a lot of them. And when we have anxiety about tasks we tend to avoid them. Of course that is a protective mechanism, psychologically. But it is maladaptive in terms of the overall outcome.
I think it is really important to remember that the things we need to do actually exist in an objective reality. If we don’t write them down or capture them somehow, they still exist. If we ignore them and play video games, they still exist. If we pretend to be productive by “keeping busy” doing unimportant things, the important stuff still exists. And my experience tells me that almost nothing ever gets better by ignoring it. Occasionally, we miss an opportunity to do something and it simply goes away. But that’s not usually in a good way. Almost always things get worse when we ignore them… yet we do.
I have found it helpful to accept that there will be feelings of being overwhelmed and being anxious. Those feelings aren’t going to go away. They certainly aren’t going to go away by avoiding things that are going to get worse and, therefore, more overwhelming and anxiety producing. We have to learn to sit with those feelings and engage in our task despite their presence. I’ve found that through is the only real way out. Each thing I check off the list, (like making a blog post,) the anxiety goes down and the feeling of accomplishment goes up. Eventually, I get out of the weeds and come to a clearing.
Of course I have years of practice now. I have built a track record or success at the difficult but actionable behaviour pattern. So, for the last two weeks when, my printer, my bookkeeping system, my billing, my email host, etc. all went haywire at the same time and I had hours of extra work on top of my normal work and family stuff… I didn’t lose my shit. I just put my head down and kept going. And, wouldn’t you know, almost two weeks later, most of that stuff is taken care of. It required some extra hours and a little more stress than I would have liked. But staying calm and having a reasoned approach allowed me to make headway. Now I can see the clearing ahead. So if I could only get my ESPN+ to play last weekend’s Dortmund game, life would be almost back to normal.