At the end of last year into the beginning of this one, I did a lot of navel-gazing. I alluded to it yesterday, but deliberately stopping trying really screwed with my self-image. Since 2005 (seven years!) I have been focused on getting pregnant and then figuring out parenting, to the exclusion of much else. I imagine it’s much like how empty-nesters feel — now that I’m not laser-focused on IF, what do I do with my life?
I took a cue from another post that I read (apologies for not remembering who – Susannah Conway, maybe?) and sat down with a stack of blank post-it notes and just started noting the things that I wanted and wanted to do, one idea on each. I took an afternoon and just let the ideas bubble up as I was working; I wrote until there didn’t seem to be anything else. Some things were concrete (“finish Mini’s baby book”) and some were just concepts (“eat consciously”). It’s been a loooong time since I went through any personal planning like that, and I think it was incredibly useful to me to go through the process. Looking at the overall pile after I finished, I realized that there were several “themes” to what I wanted and wanted to do.
I’ve played with mind-mapping software a few times in the past few years (I’ve used freemind), mainly trying to sort out sources and themes for research and dissertation. I have to admit — I love it. I’m a list-maker, so having dedicated software to make my thought clouds pretty and link the related concepts together makes my geeky little heart happy. I started dropping the themes from my post-its into a new map and then associating the task-oriented ideas with the overarching concepts. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that there was a HIGH degree of correlation between what I wanted and what I wanted to do. So for the first few months of the year, I started trying to work on the “to-do” items.
At the beginning of May, I was in a training class and bored out of my skull. A few years ago, I had started a “101 Things in 1001 Days” list, so I pulled that out to see what I had done and what I had forgotten about. The “finish” date on that list is long past, but it was interesting to see that a lot of those items were on my list or matched up closely with concepts I was working on. Longitudinal confirmation that I’m the same person down at the core, I guess. The idea behind the 101 Things list is that 1001 days is not quite 3 years, so it gives you time to reach some stretch goals. Realistically, I’m not ready to stretch. Right now, I’m at a point where I have mainly short-term goals and the motivation of seeing those crossed off keeps me going. So I sketched out a “33 Things in 365” days list. 33 things, based off of my post-its and mindmap, that I wanted to accomplish in the next year.
One of the things that I had on my 33 Things list was to set monthly intentions — an idea stolen shamelessly from Kaileen Elise. At the beginning of each month, I sit down and try to pull some items from my 33 Things list and some medium-range to-do items, based on how I’m feeling at that point, and plan to do them during the month.
Each Friday, I make a to-do list for the weekend. This is nothing new (like I said, I’m a list-maker). Sometimes they’re short, sometimes they’re long. They are always more than I get completed. Sometimes they spill over into the following week. And the next Friday, I’ll pick the items that didn’t get completed and add them to my new list. Eventually things get done, or they get stale and deleted. Now that I have the 33 Things list and the monthly intentions, I’m trying to work those items into my weekly to-do list to see that they get completed.
And I’m really happy with how this system is working out for me. I’ve realized over time that I am HIGHLY task-oriented and I’m really bad about being all-or-nothing. Either I’m perfect at what I want to do, or I give up and see myself as a failure. [Why, no, that didn’t have anything to do with my response to IF, why do you ask? lalala…] This process of working through the list and consciously giving myself slack if something is not completed or only half-done is giving me the opportunity to retrain my mind. And I think it is for the better. I’m working at being better with rolling with the punches and not freaking out when something doesn’t go exactly to my plan.