Write On Wednesday: Take it Easy On Yourself

I love lists.

List Making TimeI have an elaborate system of list-making that involves pretty file folders, colored paper, and 4×6 index cards. Each file folder contains a weekly list of action items for different areas of my life: Daily Living, Office Work, Volunteer Work, and (of course) Writing. Every Sunday night I sit down at my dining room table, turn on some quiet mood music, pour myself a glass of wine,  fan out my lists and folders, and plan my week.

When I told one of my friends about this system, her reaction was modified horror. “It makes me crazy to think about being that organized,” she said.

Truth is, sometimes it makes me a little crazy too. I have a tendency to panic when I look at my lists on Thursday or Friday and not enough items have been crossed off. Then I move into frantic mode, and everybody better step back.

For the past several months, my Writing List has contained six items: Book reviews, Author Interview questions, blog posts, ideas to propose to my editor at All Things Girl, and The Novel Project. I’ve  assigned myself a posting schedule for this blog and for contributions to All Things Girl and Medium, thinking I needed the structure of deadlines, even if they are self-imposed and arbitrary.

Having a schedule comforts me, because it gives me the illusion of being In Control.

Americans pride ourselves on productivity, and that very word has been at the top of my Goal List for several months. Be more productive, I admonish myself when I’m making that weekly writing list, chiding myself for essays left unwritten, research left undone. I’ve been equating getting things done with being happy. Yes, it makes me happy to cross things off the list, but I’m learning that sometimes it’s alright –  desirable, even – to ease up on the need to structure and organize and control. It’s alright to let soft summer breezes seduce me into the garden, alright to take a morning off and visit the Farmer’s Market in town, alright to sprawl out in my lawn chair and read a magazine. The resulting sense of warmth and well-being brings me peace, and that’s more liable to make me happy and more creative  than a mad dash through my to-do list.

Especially in summer (when, according to George Gershwin, the living is easy and the cotton is high) it’s alright to take it easy on myself.

How about you? Are you taking it easy on yourself this summer or going full steam ahead? Do you think that slowing down and savoring life boosts creativity or is counter-productive?




6 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday: Take it Easy On Yourself

  1. All I can say is I need to take lessons from you. I have the files. I have the piles. I have the mess. I have the stress. I didn’t start for this to rhyme but now I’m running out of time. OK — focus, Jeanie! I really admire that — maybe someday. Right now it’s full steam at work and when I get home I crash. Soon. Stopping soon.

    • I’m trying to be done with frantic, and organization is key for me. That said, I find myself becoming OCD about it and then I get miserable.

      BALANCE in all things.

  2. Lists give me an illusion of control, too, and even though I have very little it comforts me to manage what I can. Besides, what’s the opposite of organized? Chaos, and I never want to go there! We both have a glass table, an affection for pretty folders, and I’m sure I have the same planner if it’s a burgundy leather Filofax. xo

  3. I find that the ease of summer makes me feel more creative, and then I’m strangely more productive. I’m not as organized as you are with the lists, but I aspire to be. I find that the lists stress me out, but I need deadlines and routine. SO…I’ve tried to set a blogging schedule (and chore schedule, etc)… and I keep those things in my head. I save the lists for those things I’d definitely forget if not written down: birthday gift, pick up the prescription, etc.

  4. Order out of chaos – that’s how it started, whether you prefer the Biblical myth of creation or the underlying myths of the Babylonians and such. There has to be some chaos, or life and creativity can’t happen. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. I don’t mind a little chaos – but it may be that 23 years of working on a schedule determined by the weather has shaped me. I literally don’t know for certain when I’ll be working and when I won’t, so I’ve become more flexible than I ever imagined I could be.

    As for lists, here’s my technique. I buy a stack of 4×6 ruled yellow stickit pads. I keep one on my desk, one in my bag and one in my car. When I think of something, I write it down. When I get home at night, if I’ve written something on the car pad, I tear it off and take it upstairs. Then, I look at my other two lists and merge what’s on them, or cross things off. Then, I try to do what I have on the list. That’s about it.

    I’m not sure I could stand to do it your way. I’d be sitting there with all that pretty stuff, making lists and fussing about what else I could be doing with the time! 😉

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