aqua fortis

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Can't-Do List

Female Torso StudiesI've noticed that to-do lists tend to be both a blessing and a bane to my existence. I'm constantly making them, and without them I would probably be too scatterbrained to remember all the crap I'm supposed to get done (not a good thing for a freelancer); but at the same time, I find them paralyzing and stifling. Not to mention all the things that I WANT to do but don't actually ever make it onto the to-do list because I can't quite justify spending the time on them, somehow. It's this latter idea that I'm having a real problem with lately.

Male Torso StudiesThat is, I'm tired of shoving aside all the things I want to do, all the long-term projects that I really think would be good for me, simply because, immediately after I think I might like to do it, then I think, Oh, I can't do THAT. So I made myself a Can't-Do List. It's a list of all the things I want to do but haven't been able to find time for. Secondarily, I scooped 45 extra minutes out of my day--at least 30 of which is spent either agonizing over what to do next or procrastinating, and the other 15 unnecessarily prolonging my coffee break--which I will use at least four days a week to work on items from the Can't-Do List. Here's the list, with appropriate can't-do notes:

  • It might be nice to drive out into the countryside to a park and sit at a bench and write or draw for part of the day. (No, I can't do that. I don't have time.)
  • I think I might like to do a major project like a graphic novel or an internet thing. (No. I don't have ideas that are good enough. I'm not skilled enough. I don't have time to invest on something that big when I have other work I should be doing.)
  • I want to make some illustrations and send some out and develop a portfolio of samples. (I can't. What would I draw? I don't have a style. I don't have enough skill. I don't have time to make the drawings good enough.)
  • I want to make enough art to have a show, or at least send work out to juried shows. (But again, see above. No time. Not enough skill. No ideas. Can barely even finish art work I'm currently working on. Have too many other projects that take precedence.)
  • I would like to make a chapbook of short-short stories with accompanying artwork, but I seem to have run out of steam with those and now I'm afraid to try.
  • I want to make "found poems" out of found text; even found stories, and maybe accompany them with artwork in a chapbook.
  • I want to get back into practice on the piano at least a little, and possibly start learning how to play the drums.
  • I want to try to fit in a little meditation every day or every other day.
  • I want to make enough handmade books that I can set up an Etsy shop for them.

So my goal is to spend the first 5 minutes of my 45 minutes meditating, and the other 40 on one or two of the list items. It's the 45-Minute Plan, and I'm not allowed to procrastinate about it AT ALL. I have to eliminate the "but I should be doing X....but I should be doing Y..." that takes up so much of my mental space. It's really, really difficult. I'm hoping that making this sort of bite-sized plan will help.


tanita✿davis said...

This is really interesting. I was chuckling with a friend who was expressing aggravation that she does not, alas, after forty days of Lent, have a handle on the whole self-doubt thing. To which I replied, "Ya think!?" We never give ourselves enough time to cope -- at least it sounds as if you're taking active steps with no clear deadline to DO something. My suggestion? Give it more than a month and ten days. Success to you!

Anonymous said...

heh - i do this too...i have lists in my notebooks about projects that I plan to do one day (eg, design a chess set, learn to sculpt, do a graphic novel) - i find just writing them down saves me time worrying about the fact I cant start right now :) but gradually, every year, the get a little closer to happening - the skills develop, or I learn a tidbit about a subject,,,there was a neat article in a wired a few months back about 'late starters' - ppl who take years to get going, but then make abrupt achievements based on all the mulling over. There's a slow and steady style that isn't lauded right now :)

David T. Macknet said...

It's been part of the whole experience of doing a PhD, for me: setting aside the things that I really want to do, to leave space for this thing that I've chosen to do right now.

I don't knit any more. I don't really bake any more. I don't do jewelry-making any more. I don't play the violin any more.

It sucks, really. But ... for me it's a process of dedicating a certain percentage of my available time (i.e., nearly 100%) to studying.

And then ... and then I do things like reading blogs & trying to recapture part of my life in which I had leisure, to the detriment of my studies. Sigh.

You'll get there. Some day.