I LOVE to-do lists. I mean I truly, truly love them. Not much gives me greater satisfaction than crossing something off my list. Making lists at work is how I keep track of what needs to be done and when. I use my calendar, a special notebook just for my weekly to-dos, and post-it notes galore to bring my list into focus. I would be completely lost without my list. I have multiple deadlines for projects coming up at once and it seems like, for every one thing crossed off, two more get added. I’m not complaining. I love what I do, but it can be a lot sometimes – especially when I work from home two days a week. I stay up many nights after the kids and hubs go to sleep to work on projects. My list is the thread that ties all my work hours together.
However, lately, I’ve been feeling unsettled. Something’s off and I can’t put my finger on it. My stress level has been high at home and at work. It doesn’t help that for the past few weeks I’ve been plagued by a gut feeling that I’ve gone off track and change needs to happen yesterday. The summer days are flying by – and my kids are growing too fast. Each day their big personalities and developing attitudes continue to give me glimpses of what’s in store once we reach the hell that will be their teenage years. But, I digress.
I’ve been trying my best to listen to what my inner voice is trying to say. I’m ready to make changes… I just don’t know what needs to change. What I do know is that I need to focus. I’m not just talking about focusing on the positives. I have that down pat! I’ve gotten better at recognizing all of my blessings. Yet, I can’t help but feel unsettled, like I am lacking in inner peace.
I have also been trying to practice mindfulness and take time out to meditate or go through a 2-minute breathing exercise, but more often than not, time gets away from me. I tend to run myself ragged, leaving myself without any time to decompress. When I used to use public transportation to get to my job in Boston, I always knew that I would have 30-60 minutes to myself in the morning and in the afternoon. I actually sometimes dreaded running into someone I knew, for fear that I would have to talk to them instead of being able to put on my headphones and decompress. Sometimes I read a book or magazine, sometimes I people watched, many times I just closed my eyes and chilled out.
As you probably guessed, that was also before kids. In my home life, I am horrible about lists. I always forget to bring one to the grocery store, so each trip usually takes at least 30 minutes because I can’t stay focused. I could literally go to Big Y for milk and I’ll come out with $40 worth of junk I don’t need because I don’t have a list to follow.
Right now, in general, my life feels chaotic. The hubs and I have some financial goals we want to try and reach by next year, but it’s hard to get ourselves together. We want to move to a better school district before Sept 2019, when my daughter starts kindergarten. We want to try and get out of credit card debt and put a dent in my student loans. All great goals. But, I can’t focus. I start to think about it and come up with a plan in my head. When I’m all set to make moves, my anxiety immediately shoots through the roof and I begin to shut down and disconnect. I know a lot of what needs to be done, but I also know we need some help. I need a list. Not just any list, but a master plan list of my vision and goals for the future.
I picked up an old-school composition notebook from target for $0.50 and got to work. I started off with the big, obvious goals.
- Move to a new school district by June 2019
- Pay down credit cards
- Pay down delinquent health bills
- Rebuild my credit
Then I realized, while these are all great goals and things that will make me feel relief as I cross them off my list, I also need to focus on myself and my personal well-being. For my sake, for my husband’s sake, and especially for the sake of my kids. When I think about the items listed above, I get stressed and those stresses carry over into my relationship with my family. I decided I needed to make a list of things that I can work on in my personal life that can crossover into my professional life, and help me manage my stress, as well as help me feel a little more in control. Maybe once I have a handle on my anxiety and stress, I will be able to focus on making the changes needed for the benefit of my family.
As I wrote my new list, I noticed that these weren’t items that I ever wanted to cross off. Instead, they will serve as daily reminders to help keep me centered. They are reminders that I need to take care of myself, in addition to my family. Some are easier said than done, but still attainable in everyday life.
- Write more
- Practice mindfulness
- Stress less
- Read more
- Listen more
- Look for learning opportunities
- Look for ways to grow
- As a parent
- As a professional
- Workout more
- Plan smart fitness goals
- Don’t hold back
- Don’t be afraid
- To be happy
- To make changes
- To take chances
- Be here now, but don’t lose sight of tomorrow
That’s a pretty hefty list! But it’s all attainable. I’ll never be able to cross those items off and that’s ok. After I wrote my list, I began to already feel a sense of relief. In fact, I’ve already added “Don’t Doubt Yourself” to the list. I remembered that recently I was told not to doubt myself and second guess myself so often. I am smart, capable, and knowledgeable.
I’m happy with my list. I look forward to seeing what other reminders I add, and even more so to see some things get crossed off from the top. With 2018 only having a few months left, this list will help me achieve my goal of purging unnecessary items, in this case, those items are my stress and anxiety to make room for more happiness and love.