The functional component of any planner is the task list. There are all kinds of things we have to do in life. After battling my need to over-categorize, I have come to realize that designating tasks as belonging to either one or the other of two major categories is the best system for me.
New vs. Recurring Tasks
It took me a long time to realize that the majority of tasks I need to get done on a daily basis are things I have already done before. New tasks that we haven’t done before can seem intimidating at first, and often overwhelming. The good news is that once something has been done once, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. I also noticed that many new tasks become recurring tasks, so they can easily fit into an overall system of recurring activities that are familiar and not so overwhelming.
As I was realizing this, I decided to experiment with separating my massive collection of to-do list items out into 2 types: new tasks and recurring tasks. I defined these as follows:
New Task: A new task is anything that I haven’t done before that I will either do just one time or will become a recurring task in the future. If a new task will become a recurring task in the future, then after I complete it the first time, I will find a home for it amongst my other friendly recurring tasks.
Recurring Task: A recurring task is something that you know you will do on a regular basis. There are a ton of these. A few examples are: buying birthday presents, making arrangements for Christmas, mowing the yard, washing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, doing the laundry, getting the oil changed, watering house plants, replacing toothbrushes, grocery shopping, washing the dog, getting the mail, and on and on and on…
Recurring tasks are meant to be done on a regular basis in order to maintain the many areas of our lives so something doesn’t get neglected over the months or years and become a huge overwhelming mess that needs to be dealt with. Since there are so many recurring tasks to do, for me, just having one list that jumbled all of my new and all of my recurring tasks together was confusing and overwhelming. I had a hard time deciding what had priority and what to do next. I also struggled with remembering when the last time I did something was, and then determining and remembering when the next time it should be done again.
After separating out the things that are recurring from the new tasks, I could start to see more clearly that my list wasn’t all that overwhelming after all. Besides getting a better grip on what type of task I was dealing with, I also wanted to call my lists by names that made me feel warm and cozy rather than agitated that I had to do the things they contained. “To-Do” and “Task” never really sat well with me as names of lists I wanted to be friends with. I can’t remember what book gave me this idea, but I remember reading an example of a woman who changed the name of her to-do list to something that made her feel good and then didn’t have as much of a problem getting things done because she called it something that made her happy rather than stressed. I am not saying this is the solution to the problem of being overwhelmed, but for me, it was a start.
After brainstorming a ton of ideas of what I would like to call my new and recurring task lists, I settled on the words “reminders” and “rituals”. I came up with the word rituals first for my recurring tasks. I thought about how there is often a negative association with the word routines, as if having a routine is being in a rut. But then I thought about how having a ritual seems kind of zen to me, and that is where the name for my rituals list came from.
I can’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea to call my new tasks as reminders, but I am pretty sure I liked that it begins with an “r” as my rituals list, and reminders seems so much more gentle to me than to-do or task ever did. The last thing I had to do when naming my lists was to create separate lists for my work-related tasks.
I have struggled with whether I should have separate lists for my personal life and work. I always liked the idea of separating my home and work task lists, because I personally don’t want to think about my job when I am not on the job. I love going through my lists of personal things to do when it is my personal time, and just don’t particularly care to have to think about what I have to do for my job at those times. I have tried to have just one list in the past, but decided this was an area where I could make an exception and do a bit of over-categorizing, because it makes me happier. Isn’t that the point of all of this anyway?
I went through a similar brainstorming process to come up with the best name for my work-related task lists. The word “work” on a list always made me feel like “I don’t wanna do it” and that is not how I want my lists to make me feel. I want to get these things done, off my list, and happily move on with my life. After a lot of reflection, I settled on the word “weekday”. I figured “weekday” is a word I like, and since my job is limited to the days during the week, it makes sense for me.
I am still working on learning how to determine how much I can handle, and what I should just say no to from the beginning. This summer I finally got a grip on my task lists enough to where I don’t feel totally and completely overwhelmed by life. I still have a long way to go, but I know that I am improving slowly but surely. Tomorrow I will go through more specifics of how I have been using my reminders and rituals lists for categorizing and completing my personal and weekday tasks. Namaste!