This is a sort of unofficial philosophy to dealing with everyday indecisions. Hubby fondly (and little fearfully) refers to it as “The Putter”.
You see, I putter. A lot. This is part self-defense mechanism, part effectiveness strategy.
Quite some time ago I realised that I was happiest in a neat, organised environment. Things don’t have to be eat-off-the-floor clean (I have cats, I Know Better), and they don’t have to be matching-paisley-colourcoded-tags organised. But once I start letting things pile up, it gets exponentially worse and then it’s a Big Project instead of a small one, so it’s better to do things as I go along is small stages.
This has turned out to be a truly useful strategy when dealing with hypothyroidism and RA. Short attention span? Do one thing for five minutes. Forget what you’re doing? No worries- just choose something else. Short attention span? A list of to-do’s in a prominent place (always the same spot of the fridge) helps remind me. Don’t feeling like doing X or bored with it already? Do something else on the list. Tired/achy/sore? Again, only working on something in small steps makes it less of a strain. Can’t do X right now? Then do Y instead and try X again later.
The hardest part, honestly, is when I can’t find my note or I’m so scattered that I can’t focus on ANYTHING. I’ve had a couple of those days lately, when I can’t even read a chapter. And that’s when “Do what you need to do” comes in.
When I don’t know what to do with myself, and/or don’t feel like doing anything, I think of one thing that I need to do. The first thing that comes to mind usually is something simple like “wash my hair” or “brush the cat”. This means I bathe at some weird hours (3 in the afternoon anyone?). But it was something that had to be done anyway, and now that it’s done I can do something else.
My Sunday was a bit like this:
- Write three Christmas cards
- Fill the bowl on the dining table with ornaments for a centrepiece
- Empty the dishwasher
- Drink a glass of water
- Put my shoes in the closet
- Wrap a gift
- Write another card
- Have a snack
- Hang the wreath on the front door
- Write two more cards
- Refill the dishwasher
Sure, it would have been more effective to do the cards all at once… except I couldn’t. There was just no way I could sit and write six cards straight. But look at how much else I got done in the meantime! They all had to be done (or I wanted to do them at least), but by taking the pressure off myself to do things in a timely or organised amnner, I still got it all done in a surprisingly reasonable time frame.
Granted, there is a certain amount of wandering into a room and muttering “why am I here?” involved. But then I find something to do in that room and do it. And it’s done. Or not finished, but I wander out of the room and complete it when I come back a half hour later. It’s haphazard, but it works! Saturday I managed to plow through a full 1/3 of our holiday card list. But it left my hands aching and me a bit burned out about cards for a few days. Trying to doing it all at once did not end up being a successful strategy for me.
This sort of lackadaisical approach to Getting Things Done might not work for everyone. In fact, I know of at least one person who it drives absolutely NUTS (almost comically so). (Thankfully, this person is not my husband.)
But letting go of my own desire to be “effective” in planning and accomplishing things that need to be done has turned out to work really well for me, even when (or maybe especially when) I’m not working well at all. It’s true that I forget things occasionally, or get them out of turn. Right now, remembering to get the garbage and recycling out on time has been challenging. But it’s not the end of the world, and as long as those close to me tolerate it, I’ll call it a success.
(I should clarify that this works in the office setting as well but only up to a certain point- deadlines still need to be met and meetings attended, but breaking projects into small steps to not get overwhelmed absolutely applies.)