When I tweeted about finishing all 20 guest posts, Miranda told me I should vlog about how I get stuff done. I said that I have no secrets, but the truth is that I don’t consider myself very good at getting stuff done. I know that I have accomplished things, but they’re kind of a mystery to me, and what I don’t admit often enough is that there are things on my To Do list that have been there for years.
And not things like get published or run a marathon. Those are dreams and I’ll get to them sooner or later. I’m talking about real-life things like get the issue with my car title resolved and talk to the student loan company about that thing and get the leaky sink in my apartment fixed. Things that are so boring they don’t belong on a blog.
I resolve to deal with these things all the time, but expert-level avoidance means they just sit on a To Do lists waiting forever to be crossed off. Avoidance is something I used to know very well, and I thought for a second when I took control of my debt that I had conquered it, but it still has some hold over me. Avoidance requires more than just laziness. You’ve got to mix in fear, no matter how irrational, and maybe a dash of self-destruction. A very small percentage of the time, you can avoid things so long that they go away, but more often avoidance makes monster problems out of baby problems.
Several months ago, I made a list on Evernote called (sorry, Mom) “Annoying Shit To Do.” I took some satisfaction in just admitting that this was annoying life stuff that I had to take care of instead of diving into negative self-talk about how a responsible adult would have taken care of this stuff immediately. This Summer, I have made a renewed effort to finally finally really really cross everything off of this list.
So I focus on a few things a week, and I email Linda to tell her my plan, because I know she’ll ask for updates and celebrate every inch of progress with me. I mean, really, I say “I made an appointment at the DMV” and she says, “Yay!”
I know I’m not giving myself enough credit, because aside from this embarrassing list of annoying shit to do, I have been able to get some things done. I write a lot. I’ve never failed or taken an incomplete in school. I manage my finances. And, hey, I’m still alive.
Ah, okay. Here’s what I know about getting stuff done: don’t believe your own lies. Don’t confuse a color-coded budget for working really hard and not spending anything. If you haven’t written in months, don’t think you need a beautiful notebook or a perfectly-designed blog in order to start again. Accomplish at least one real thing every day. Talk as much as you want about what you’re going to do, but judge yourself by what you actually do.
And don’t forget that the guy who wrote the most impressive 1,000 page novel also wrote, “that concentrating intently on anything is very hard work.” Call it annoying shit if you want to, but do the work. I still mess up all the time. On Monday I sat in front of my computer for three hours and only realized when I was going to sleep that I didn’t actually get anything done in that time. So I tried to make up for it on Tuesday.
Other secrets: I write and rewrite my To Do list every day. I commit myself to things I’d be embarrassed to fail at. I don’t give myself any outs: I’m going to show up for work and class every day, so there’s nothing to think about when I get up in the morning. If I have any bit of momentum, I go with it (sometimes you can accomplish in an afternoon what you’ve put off for a year). It feels pretty awesome to accomplish things, even when they’re small, so though it’s my nature to gloss over all that and just focus on the things I didn’t do, I try to celebrate the wins and share them with other people. It’s not bragging if you’re talking to friends.
Annoying (AND AWESOME) thing to do today: turn in passport application.