I’m a list fanatic and totally depend on them to help make sure the zillion balls I am juggling all stay in the air. I have list notebooks that are casually scattered around the house like Twinky wrappers on my night table, kitchen counter, dining room table, everywhere. I rely on them so much I wonder how in the world other people stay organized and productive without them.
How do people work full time, travel, raise kids, get said kids to band/baseball/hockey practice, maintain a house/car/yard, eat healthy meals, keep relationships and friendships, and exercise without some time management skills? I honestly think some people can make all this happen in their heads. But I am SOOO not one of them! If it’s not on a list, it doesn’t get done. The good news is that if it IS on a list, it happens.
Lists are my friends. They bring me peace and make me feel secure. They are reliable, trusted evidence that everything is in order and a benevolent plan is in progress.
But I’ve discovered an evil underbelly to list-making. Lists can take on a life of their own, like HAL does in 2001 A Space Odyssey. HAL is the ship’s computer system, programmed with human capabilities like speech, natural language processing, appreciation, emotions, and reasoning. HAL was programmed to serve the crew but turns against them when his own survival becomes threatened. At one point HAL justifies his mutiny by saying “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”
It seems I’ve conditioned my lists to serve the god of productivity, often at the expense of fun. On my list, “get manicure” or “take nap” looks like ghetto graffiti when squeezed between “pay mortgage” and “schedule eye appointment”. So what happens when I want to build unstructured, pure nothingness or fun into my day? I basically have to fight my own agenda!
This challenge has become more apparent on the weekends. I look forward to a few days of recovering and family time only to find by Sunday night my entire weekend was filled with chores. I’m left mentally satisfied but emotionally cheated. I get grumpy and irritable and wonder if this is what being adult is supposed to be like. I’ve let productivity take over the school yard. Now that I recognize that, I’m making a conscious effort to keep productivity in its place and give fun a big fat promotion (and one of those gigantic foam fingers to wave around).
In terms of happiness currency, if productivity is a nickel than fun is a $100 dollar bill. From that perspective, you can’t fit enough productivity into the day to equal the happiness value of pure fun. I will never get rid of my lists but I will no longer let them bully me into forfeiting fun, either. What about you? What are your strategies for being productive while also making guilt-free time for fun and relaxation?