If you’re reading this I assume you either make To Do lists or have the desire to get organized enough to do so. So I imagine you are also familiar with the feeling of disappointment when you cannot complete everything on your list or that you had hoped to do. Welcome to the club!
Being the A-type personality I am, I have colored coded sticky notes, various lists for different categories of tasks and all my appointments on my Google calendar. I can definitely say it has become overwhelming. I was previously able to shoot down the list with ease and have a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end of the day for getting everything done. Now, after living with CFS / CFIDS for 14 years, I am finding less and less gets done on my lists and I end up feeling unproductive, worthless and angry that I can’t do more.
Here are a few quick tips that may help you adjust your To Do lists and close the day still feeling like you accomplished something important… even if it was a smaller task than usual.
1. DECIDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO GO ON THE LIST
Not everything is list worthy. Writing down every single task that you can think of to make sure you don’t forget it may actually do more damage than you think. Loading up a sheet of paper with “must do” items can be overwhelming, and may lead to that feeling of low productivity at the end of the day. If you really need a reminder, start by making a To Do list draft. Write down everything you can think of. Then write a condensed list of “must do” items. Shortening the list may actually help you get started and feel better after the day is done.
2. BE REALISTIC
Of course we would all love to get a million and one things done each day… who doesn’t want to be Super Woman (or man)? But it’s just not realistic to put those types of expectations on yourself. This will only lead to disappointment. When writing your list, be realistic about locations, timing and your energy level. If you know you have 3 good hours a day, then maybe spend the day doing errands in one area of town, or dedicate that day to house chores. Driving around to try and do things around town plus come home to do chores or care for others is exhausting for someone completely healthy, let alone those of us with limited energy.
3. LEARN TO SAY NO
This is one of the hardest ones for me. I never want to feel left out or miss any good times with friends and family. But I am quickly learning adding other’s activities on top of my own to-do list and daily responsibilities is just to much. Don’t run yourself into the ground trying to accommodate someone or something into your schedule. If you are not feeling up to it, be honest! Yes, you may deal with some fall out or disappointment from the other person, but that is much easier than dealing with the days or weeks that you are in bed from over extending yourself. Just weight the consequences of saying yes versus no and see if you are ready and prepared to be down for the count because you are over tired.
4. PLAN IN ADVANCE
I live and die by my calendar. I schedule everything out for a few weeks so I know what days are available to add meetings/activities to and what days are full. Everyone has different capabilities so there probably isn’t a good rule that fits everyone, but here;s what I do: I do not schedule meetings Mondays and Fridays. These days are reserved for rest, to catch up on things I did not complete from the previous week or for last minute meetings. Tue, Wed, Thu I only schedule 2 meetings per day and I always request them to be in my area so I am not driving very far (driving can be exhausting too)! I try to follow this plan as much as possible, with the understanding that some weeks are different or that “life happens” and things come up.
5. BE FLEXIBLE & FORGIVING
Give yourself a break and realize that you cannot control everything. Life is constantly changing as are people’s schedules around you, for both professional and personal reasons. If you keep this in mind while working your way through the To Do list you will be able to deal with last minute changes easier. And if you don’t get everything done… don’t beat yourself up about it (yes I know easier said then done). I struggle with this one everyday myself. Besides the urgent tasks that must be completed, everything on my list will be there waiting for me tomorrow