As I mentioned the other day, lately I have been thinking of my life more in seasons.
There are sooo many things we do that are recurrent: brushing our teeth, showering, replacing mascara, washing the sheets, making plans for Christmas, buying birthday gifts, buying toilet paper…and on, and on, and on. I have started a list of such recurrent activities and right now, I am up to 92 items (just for my personal life).
In some ways that sounds like a lot, but in others it doesn’t even scratch the surface. This list actually doesn’t include things that are so automatic as taking a shower everyday, but I did put things like “floss” and “take vitamins”, because these are daily activities that I have struggled with getting into a solid daily habit of doing.
As with my goals and affirmations, I have created a notebook in Evernote to contain these items – one item per note. This has been one of those (crazy?) personal productivity ideas of mine for several years now, which I couldn’t quite hack because I never felt connected to the list.
Let’s Go Back to the Beginning
I started out with a “hipster” that was given to me as a gift for my birthday about 3 or 4 years ago. The hipster is a very cute do-it-yourself personal planner, that can be tailored to anyone’s personal productivity needs. It utilizes the Circa system of disks that allow paper to be easily removed and rearranged (as with a 3-ring binder, but, in my opinion, cooler, and much more user-friendly since there is no clasping). The hipster uses 3 x 5 cards that are punched (I bought the notebook and paper puncher from Levenger.com) to fit into the Circa system.
I had templates customized by type of activity or to-do: home tasks, work tasks, periodic tasks, etc. The periodic tasks note I had trouble getting on board with, because it was (for some reason) so hard for me to decide what should or shouldn’t be on the list and to keep track of what I already had done vs. what I still needed to do.
So I pretty much abandoned the periodic list and trudged forward with my dreaded to-do lists. These lists have basically hung over my head like an anvil for several years, because no matter how much I so desperately wanted to check things off, inevitably new things would pile on, while old tasks would haunt me for weeks or months. I just could never get a grip.
Meanwhile, the things that should practically become second nature out of their frequency of repetition also hung over my head, compounding the problem of my existing and ever increasing number of tasks. For example, every year when it comes time to buy birthday and Christmas gifts for the same people, I am stumped. But why should this be so? Isn’t there an easier way to start thinking about and planning things far enough in advance that I can exist in a space where I rest easy because everything is being taken care of?
I think so. I do believe this is possible, even though I think most people would tell me not to bother, or that there is no way to have everything in order all the time. I get that, but at the same time I believe we can have plans to have everything in order, and then the 20% of the time that things are disordered, we at least have a plan of where we want to be and just have to take a few corrective actions to get back on course, rather than living in total and complete chaos.
My Current System
This brings me to my current system: my “Rituals” lists in Evernote (since going paperless, I have also abandoned my very cute hipster for simplification purposes). I feel that truly these things are routines, but “routine” almost has a negative connotation to me, as in “rut”. I like “ritual” because it feels more meaningful and less burdensome. Who doesn’t like a good, healthy ritual to keep their life running smoothly?
So right now, I have each note containing one ritual, similar to how I have one note per goal or affirmation in their respective notebooks. Right now I have two “rituals” notebooks: one is just called “rituals” and the other is called “rituals – weekday”.
The Power of the Words We Use
Despite a plethora of personal productivity advice out there recommending to have simply one list of things to do, that has just never worked for me. I am much more inclined to have a separate list associated with my job and a separate list for my personal tasks. But I never liked the word “work” as a label for my work list because, well, that word also has somewhat of a negative connotation to me. Not that I don’t want to do work, but I also always hated that expression that “they call it work for a reason”, as if to imply that no one can do a job they actually enjoy. I never really bought it, and I never will.
Anyway, with my current job, I decided to call anything associated with it as “weekday”, because I think that word sounds kinda cute (don’t you?), and doesn’t put me off the way “rituals – work” would. This will be highly personalized for everyone, and some people might just not care whether they call it work, weekday, or something else entirely. And that is perfectly fine.
My Rituals Lists
I have my rituals labeled as daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally, and yearly. I had no problem with the other common calendar words we use, but something about “quarterly” evokes the same slightly negative, I don’t want to do it response within me as “work” and “routine”. So I chose to go by the seasons, and I am now basing my goals on the seasons and also found my own way to keep track of the things that I do less frequently than monthly but more often than yearly, such as change out the mascara and toothbrushes, and get my credit report (which I have majorly procrastinated on, and hope that my rituals list will help me to stay on top of these types of things that seem to get brushed aside as the seasons keep passing by).
Within each notebook, each item is preceded by its frequency of occurrence, as in the following:
Daily – Floss
Daily – Take Vitamins
Every Week – Clean Floors
Every Week – Clean Bathrooms
Monthly – Meal Plan
Monthly – Pay Rent
Seasonally – Change Toothbrushes
Seasonally – Change AC Filter
Yearly – Renew Car Registration
Yearly – File Taxes
I have created an Evernote shared notebook to show a better example of how this looks. I am still working on improving my own system. That is part of the beauty of Evernote – you can completely create your own system that works for you, and can change it as needed to fit your personal needs.
Happy ritualizing – Namaste!
photo credit: Tailgun2009