Wednesday, September 19, 2012

List-making for lupites - a 3-column approach

I probably mention the phrase “to-do list” on this blog more than I do "lupus". Okay…maybe a close second. But given my type-A personality, and the fact that since lupus, I’ve found it impossible to sort/organize/keep track of life's little details without the help of pen and paper, my to-do lists are big deals. They deserve all the attention they receive, particularly because my ever-demanding list of to-do’s is what most often challenges my lupus. That is, I always want to do everything on the list. I'm compelled to finish what I set out to accomplish. And I find that there are physical consequences (usually unwelcome ones) to marking everything off my list, yet emotional fallout (usually disappointment) to not finishing the things on my list. 

Yes - the limitations of my disease aren’t very accommodating when it comes to to-do list completion. Energy level, stress level, and rest requirements often stand in my way of running around like the Tasmanian Devil in order to achieve 100% completion. (And that's without the swellings, join pain, immobility and the like that I used to have to factor in years ago.) Of course, I’ve come to realize that this restriction is a good thing. Who wants to be side-swiped by Taz anyway? I used to take a good chunk out of anyone who got in my way, but I’m learning to take my lists nice and slow -  “learning” being the operative word here.

So while my expectations for completing tasks have been modified, I still rely heavily on lists- making them both on a daily and weekly basis. I recently revamped the way I write my to-do lists, and I thought my new approach was worthy of sharing. Partly because I just like talking "lists", but mostly because my new way of list-making makes the tasks seem less overwhelming and easier to prioritize for me. My new way to roll has even improved my time management - which is always a challenge for the perfectionist in me, who always wants to take just 15 minutes to finish "x".

So what's my new method? Here it is:

I divide up a small piece of paper into three columns. I prefer not to mark actual columns on the paper, but rather, I fold the paper into thirds lengthwise so the division between columns is subtle, while allowing me to view one column at a time, or all three at the same time, depending on how ambitious I'm feeling.

Across the top of  the columns, I write the following headings (we'll assume that I'm making this list today for the coming week):
First column: Wednesday/Thursday
Second column: By Sunday
Third column: By Next Friday

Then, I jot down my list of things to do under one of the three columns, choosing to do so according to their importance, due date, urgency, etc. It forces me to put some things at the forefront while pushing other things that could either distract me or cause unnecessary pressure to accomplish to next week. What's more, I can easily see if I'm piling on too much on a daily basis, thus encouraging me to sprinkle my less pressing to-do's throughout the week, rather than adding them unnecessarily to an earlier column. It also forces me to re-evaluate what I think is urgent vs. what really IS urgent, and allows me to see when it becomes clear that I'm going to need help getting those urgent items done in a timely fashion.

I've also tried these headings, which have achieved equally as positive results:

First column: To do today...
Second column: Working on...
Third column: To tackle/start/contact soon...

This way - I can easily separate those tasks that will be tackled immediately versus those that are longer-term to-do's. It's reassuring to see some of those big-picture to-do's come off "today's list" and go where they belong. Even though I know some of those biggies can't possibly be completed in a day, having them lurking about on "Today"'s list just doesn't sit well with me. An uncompleted task is an uncompleted task, after all. But this way, I don't feel bad about not getting to it or completing it, because it's not even "scheduled" to have been started yet. Know what I mean?

So there you go - a glimpse into the to-do lists of this high-achieving, accomplished-driven lupite.

And yes, I just marked "Wednesday's post" off my list. I couldn't help myself.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, I have just been diagnosed with SLE this week and I have been stuggling with facial rash and especially the fatigue at the moment.

I am working full time (50 hours per week) as well as being a single mum. I do have a sitter who helps with my daughter but that is only between school and my getting home from work.

Wondering what advice you could give on how to manage the fatigue while still working. I find I function well until about 1pm or so and then I feel like I am hit by a truck.

Many thanks
Jane

Nerdgirl said...

This sounds vaguely like a project management methodology called Kanban. You should do a search for "personal kanban". :-)

Michelle said...

It reminded me of Kanban, too. I was thinking of kanbanflow.com. I tried it for a while but felt overwhelmed with all of the things that I kept adding to the list that weren't getting done. Sometimes I think that losing my to-do list is a good thing can be a good thing.

I started using Evernote to clip articles related to my current health situation. I don't know if I have lupus or an adrenal disorder or what, but now that I have health insurance again (thank you, hubby) I'm looking into the situation. I have a To Do section in Evernote that helps me see things in project chunks to get a general picture rather than having things spread all over the place. Then I pull a bit out of each project and put it on the to-do list. Things still move more slowly than I'd like, but it doesn't feel as overwhelming and I seem to get more done this way.

Sara Gorman said...

Jane - I'm just checking back through my comments, and I thought I responded to this months ago. Can you remind me if we've emailed about this, or am I just a knuckle head and never posted my response? I have it right here - but maybe I created it offline and forgot to post it. Let me know and thanks!

Sara Gorman said...

And I checked out Kanban - and it's very, very interesting. Thanks to you both for the comparison. And Evernote sounds promising, too. I'll definitely check it out. I, too, find that when I'm NOT overwhelmed, I get more accomplished. I think I'm just more relaxed/focused and less frenetic/scattered!