Admittedly, I'm not an especially organized person by nature. I try to have a "system" for things, but I don't always follow that. For whatever the reason, somewhere along the way I started jotting down a "to do" list on the computer.
See, I'm the type who gets easily overwhelmed when I have a lot to do. It isn't that I can't do any individual task, but my mind is so easily distracted and divided that thinking about what I want/need to do next keeps me from focusing on what I am trying to get accomplished at that given moment. Sometimes these are other things that need to be done that day; other times it's something that I really don't even need to get around to for weeks. Whatever the case, I need to get that out of my head so I can think.
Jotting it all down not only provided me with a written agenda (which is all a "to do" list is to most people); I also finally had some piece of mind. I had literally cleared my head of things that had been bothering me for a while. You don't realize the clutter you keep in you brain when there's always a little nagging drive to get around to doing something else. Once your agenda is laid out in front of you, you can prioritize and concentrate on one at a time rather than worrying about the rest of them.
An extension of this is that it's a self-inventory of your life. What do you want to do? What do you need to do? Etc. It's helpful in a lot of different ways. The theory (as I see it), is that you lay out some facet of your life, and from that you see larger patterns in who you are. For example, if you make a list of your favorite movies, you see the things you really like in movies, and that helps you focus on finding the movies you would really want to see and allows you to skip things dripping with hype that you now know you can ignore.
When I made the "to do" list(s), the patterns
that emerged told me a lot about what I wanted to accomplish, what my interests
were, what things I had been avoiding doing, etc. It made me realistic
about certain goals so that I could abandon some of them as wastes of time,
either because they were frivolous or because they were something I would
honestly never get around to.
Organizing the list
I've tried several different ways of organizing things on the list, but I still haven't found the best approach for me. The first one I tried was obvious: Priority. The most important things and/or the ones that required the most immediate attention were placed at the top of the list so I could cross those off first. Other items moved down to where they would theoretically get crossed off by the end of the week, month, whatever. I even added things for the distant future, but it just got ridiculous.
I tried other, less-obvious approaches that I thought would work for me, but they weren't much better, and I finally arrived at where I am now: categorizing things by the type of task. Currently, things fall under the following headings:
*Around the house - Stuff like mowing the lawn, laundry, filing paperwork, home improvement projects I'm actually prepared to undertake, etc. I also include things like guitar projects that I can do at home.
*On the computer - Things I need to look up on the web or work with right there on my own hard drive.
*Dani - This is the crap I need Dani's help with or things I need her to do herself such as gardening issues that I need taken care of but I don't want to deal with.
*Fun - Places I want to go, things I want to see, etc. Usually these are local places that I can get around to on the weekend if I set aside some time.
Putting things in these categories sort of made things easier to find the moment in which to do them. Obviously, the "fun" section was limited to weekends most of the time. When I sit down at the computer, that's the best time to check off a few items on the "computer" section of the list. I still haven't figured out how to motivate myself though, even if I actually know what needs to be done.
In addition to the straight "to do" list, I have a few others. For example:*"Out" - What I need to do around town; e.g., visiting the library, bank, hardware store, groceries, etc.
*Stuff to sell on eBay - Most of the time I have to dig the stuff out and take pics, write up descriptions, and pull a listing together. I make a list of things, then do it all at once.
*Writing - Pieces I need to work on, web pages I need to add/expand/edit, etc.
*"Periodically" - Things I need to get around to from time to time like cleaning out my inboxes, checking my tires, checking in on websites that are infrequently updated to see what's new, etc.
*Shopping - An extension of the "out" list. Usually this is a running list of groceries I need to buy.
*Want to read - Books I need to get around to that people have recommended or topics/by authors I'm interested in.
*Want to know - Kind of a corollary of the above. Stuff to learn about that I need to read up on.
*Vacation spots - Places I want to visit when I travel someday. Mostly places where they shot Star Wars, naturally.
*Wish list - It's a materialistic version of "things I want to buy" for all the junk I really don't need to put on a "to do" list. Most of the things I put on the wish list are items that I would love to fall in my lap or something I'll be on the lookout for, should a great deal come up on eBay or somewhere. Naturally, about half the list is composed of guitars, most of which are out of my price range, but you never know.
Dani is especially bad about getting around to things she needs to do. In the past I thought that maybe this was because she never made her own "to do" list, so I made her one. As you might guess, that really didn't help much. It was something she never got around to looking at, and I was usually too busy with my own things to constantly remind her about it.
To make it more fun than just a series of chores, I printed out the list and cut it up into little strips of paper for each item. These went into the "to do" jar. However, I also had a lengthy list of fun things to do that we were always putting off getting around to, so I threw those in there as well. She never knew what she was going to pull out of it, so it was potentially rewarding and therefore motivating. The good was mixed with the bad, and psychologists can tell you this is the most effective reinforcement schedule. In short, it was a gamble, and we know that can be addicting. It didn't get everything we needed to get accomplished, but it was a fun alternative to the usual pattern of avoidance and procrastination.
Sometimes it's interesting to go back and look at old "to do" lists I still have buried on back-up discs from years ago. This list was pulled when I started this piece several months before I got around to posting it. It's surprising what has and hasn't gotten checked off. As such, here's a snapshot of my life via some (yes, only some) of the items on my own "to do" list.*wrap Ronnie cd for Aunt Mildred's - My aunt's birthday is coming up, so I need to wrap her present well in advance and have it ready to get in the mail. I'm always late with these things even though she never forgets mine.Obviously I have a lot I want (or need) to do. If you can and do want to help me take any of the above off the list, feel free to give me a shout sometime.
*axehacks.com - I bought the domain name the other day, but I need to associate it with my guitar site and make a logo for it. I make decent money off that space, so I figured I ought to brand it with something less than the mouthful it is now: Electronic Modifications for Guitar. (Boring!)
*laundry - This is always on my list, but if I don't see it, I'll forget to put the load in the dryer (or on the clothes line since it's summer at the moment).
*pick up photo albums - I dug out stuff the other day and never got around to organizing it. It's been sitting on the floor for weeks now.
*only you string break - I wanted to do a string arrangement of Yaz's "Only You" for a quartet, but didn't have a version with the string break in the middle.
*back-up computer: dvds for bank - I've always backed up my computer fairly religiously, but since Katrina, I've become paranoid about "What if" events in which I lost everything and I've started storing them off-site in a safety deposit box.
*projector bulb "use dfc lamp only" (alternatives: djl or dfn): 150w 120v 15hr - My parent have home movies on film that they've never transferred to tape. I'd like to do that for them when I have a digital video camera, but I need to order bulbs for the projector. Still need the video camera first though.
*schematics for coil-tap guy - People write me at the guitar site all the time. I promised a guy I'd get back to him with a fix for a schematic he sent me, but I've never gotten around to looking it up on account of doing things like this annotated list instead.
*install alphasmart patch - There's a glitch on the Alphasmart that causes it to lock up sometimes, but I can avoid it if I'm careful. The patch would fix it, but I've never taken the time to back up everything on it and install it.
*slap bass on YouTube - I'm an okay bass player, but anyone who can really slap would blow me out of the water. I need to check out some of the lessons people have posted on YouTube and try to commit myself to learning the techniques I'm just faking at the moment.
*car: slipping transmission - Problem with my car. I need to find out if I can fix this and what it will take before it becomes more serious.
*monster.com - I should post a resume.
*hang gliding journal I read a while back - Before I got into hang gliding, I read a blog posted by a couple who were learning. Their entries were very detailed, but they didn't mean as much to me at the time, so I'd like to find it again and read it through.
*dad's poems - My dad writes a lot of poetry of all types. I need to organize the pieces by style and genre.
*fix alesis keyboard - My keyboard had a broken key that I fixed, but when I put it back together again, it didn't sit right, so now some of the keys require you to hit them harder than you should have to in order to get the same sound (They're touch-sensitive and it's a weight-action keyboard).
*halloween make-up test - I have an idea for next Halloween, but we always put off doing the "proof of concept" tests until we've always committed to a path. One of these days we're really going to screw up, and I'm not going to be happy, so I want to get this out of the way to avert that.
*glider swing - Need to find one of these for the front porch. I haven't found the one I want yet.
*x-mas presents for parents, etc. - I'm always at a loss for ideas. This is something Dani and I brainstorm a couple times a year so we don't have to panic (as much) come xmas.
*x-mas card/newsletter (print out the address labels now!) - We never get these out on time.
*go through files from 3.5" disks - This is from Dani's "to do" list. I got all the files from her old floppies and put them on the computer when we got rid of the old machine with the 3.5" drive, but all the data is completely unorganized from college, grad school, and maybe three jobs between then and now.
*random boxes in spare room - Dani's crap that needs to be organized or gotten rid of.
*Medieval Times - I keep wanting to go here just because it seems so cheesy.
*photos of downtown from Hemphill St. and from Rosedale on-ramp - A couple great spots for taking pictures of downtown, but the weather has been crap for so long that we've had to keep putting this off. I honestly forgot this one was on the list.
*wash car - This is always on the list because I never get this far down it.
*ride the train to Dallas from Fort Worth - I have no idea why, but this just sounds like something fun to do even though I make the same trip by car all the time (and in much less time).
*Japanese grocery for yamagobo - There's only one place around here that sells the stuff, so we treat ourselves every once in a while. (Though it's been a while on account of the fact that Dani's parents moved, so we aren't in that neighborhood anymore.)
*ninjas at the dam - Years ago we took a bunch of cheap Big Lots action figures (i.e., ninjas vs. SWAT team vs. barbarians) to the lookout by Lake Worth and played with them. Completely childish, but it was so much fun setting them up and taking pictures that looked like those scenes they always contrive for commercials but you can never recreate in your back yard as a kid.
*RHPS - They show Rocky Horror on Saturdays at midnight not too far from our place, but we have never been (Though I tried to take Kristi once years ago and got there late so we skipped it).
*art museum - Out of at least a half dozen museums within a couple miles from my house, I've only been to two or three of them. I feel like a redneck.
*dance lessons - Our neighbor used to go, and this doesn't sound like something I would do, so it's something I'd like to do.
*find LP schematic - I designed a schematic for a Les Paul a while back that had a lot of cool options, but I never built it even though I've got all the parts.
*sketch dresses - Actually, I've got this one now. At the time I had text descriptions of several wedding dress ideas but hadn't sketched them out to compare and refine.
*boil eggs - I'm always out of them because I only boil a half-dozen at a time.
*gypsy guitar players - An idea for wedding music. Any Django fans?
*college phonebooks available? - I needed to call and see if I could access the university's archive to look through the phone directories when I was there for people I'm trying to track down now for Time-Traveling episodes.
*more insulation - I added insulation to about two thirds of the attic, but there's a bit more to go. I did add an attic fan, however, so that's progress along similar lines.
*plant a tree (fall!) - The house is very poorly shaded compared to most of my neighbors, so this is something I've been meaning to do for a while.
*pictures of all the rooms, wide shots - I photographed the interior of the house extensively when we were painting the place, but not since it's been complete. Of course, I need it to be clean if I'm ever going to post these pics.
*el-wire (lightsaber) near guitar pickups? = sound? - Again, something that would take five minutes yet I've never gotten around to it. I was curious if battery-operated lights (albeit through an inverter) would interfere with the signal from a guitar since it would be neat to have them installed on one. Correct answer: Yes, it produces a deafening squeal louder than the guitar itself and regardless of whether distortion is selected or if the el-wire is even near the guitar.
*install video card - I bought a really nice video card forever ago back when I had problems with the driver to mine. Well, I fixed mine before I ever used the new one. I'm not a gamer, but this was relatively cheap (not much of a step up pricewise from a basic one) even though it was pretty powerful (at least at the time). I don't really need it, but it would speed things up a bit since I run so much at a time, so it stays on the "to do" list.
*floating string - This is a contraption you can make to hold above unstrung guitars or just their electronics to test the sound coming out if you're working on them. It looks like a violin bow (only with a guitar string in place of the horse hair) and saves you the trouble of stringing your guitar only to find out you wired it backwards or grounded it out so you have to unstring it and repair the electronics.
*check Dani's tires - Because she won't otherwise.
*copy of Word for dad - I can't find what happened to my copy of MS Office and I need to restore his hard drive eventually to fix a few things.
*reconnect Roland - I have a guitar synth that I need to reconnect. I disconnected it a while back, and it hasn't gotten almost any use, which is a shame considering there's a lot you can do with it.
*clean desk top - I don't like paper, but there's a lot of it on my desk. I need to file it away. Problem: I don't like paper.
*try out EQ from pedal - I need to test out the circuitry from an EQ pedal I bought a while back just to see what kind of sound it gets. I'm using it for something else though.
*add a 500k resistor (another pot!) to the ground side of the circuit? - This is just an experiment to see how it affects the tone. It is widely believed that treble is lost to the ground side of the circuit. I want to test this (myth?) out.
*go through "pics to use" - I throw graphics into a subdirectory that are for web pages of mine, but never think to check in on them and finish what I started. I should.
*urbex galleries - I'm finally getting around to making galleries of my last couple years' worth of explorations.
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