Doing Everything All The Time

I spend significant portions of my day stressing–unproductive stressing over things I cannot address at that particular moment.

For example, I’ve wanted to update this blog’s email subscription to a new format for months. MONTHS.

But there’s always a million other things to do, too, and that project is a time-consuming one. So it sits. And every day that I don’t get it done, I end up stewing and stressing over it: When will I get this done? How will I get this done? Will I ever even have the time needed to get this done? This should have been done already. I should do it right now.

Except I can’t. Because, for example, I’m at work and doing job-related things (which are also important). Or I am overloaded taking care of other things, like finishing my book club read or writing my next blog post or maintaining wordhaus. Or I’m out at dinner with my husband. Or it’s 1 a.m. and I desperately need to get to sleep. Etc.

Basically, I feel like I’m doing everything all the time, and there’s never any end to it. And the weight of that frequently becomes all-consuming.

Is this just me? Do other creatives pushing out side projects and balancing work and family and, oh yeah, maybe a life, feel this way too? (Tell me how you cope in the comments!)

We’ve been having trouble with our puppy lately . Even though we already housebroke her, she’s been having accidents left and right again. (No really, this is related. Hang tight.) I’ve been really freaked out about why she’s doing this, and how to fix it.

Luckily last weekend we hung out with some friends with two dogs. These guys are real veterans at this stuff. So when they asked about our puppy, I told them the truth. Easy fix! they said—just get her back to basics. Lay it on thick with the positive reinforcement. Praise. Treats. Just like when you started training her.

The dog hasn’t had an accident since. Bam.

But this made me realize that I need to get back to basics with my task management, too. I’ve let my tasks get unruly, and now I’m paying the price. I don’t need to be running frantic all the time.

In fact, last year, I started writing out master to-do lists with everything I needed to on them, from posting a blog to finishing a book. Big tasks get broken into smaller ones that can be done in 60 minute increments. I wrote a day next to each item … and then, bam!, I did it on that day.

It’s not rocket science. But it does work.

And it’s beautiful. Just knowing that everything I have to do is all written down in one place gives me immeasurable peace of mind. Crossing something off that list each day helps me move steadily toward both my short-term and long-term goals. Even better, it allows me to have time to rest, too, rather than always hustling, because I know have a plan in place to get me where I need to go.

I am carrying my to-do notebook with me everywhere now. And ever since I got back to this habit, I’ve been breathing a little easier. And sleeping better, too.  Slow but steady wins the race.


Tell me … how do you keep your to-dos from getting out of hand?


5 thoughts on “Doing Everything All The Time

  1. Love your post as always, Emily. Every time I get to feeling a bit of overwhelm, I think of Thoreau and his 3, actually one word: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” -Thoreau

  2. Emily,

    Fantastic post about a thing that I feel constantly. I think this “trying to do everything at once” thing happens to me for a few reasons.

    1. I think i derive most of my self-worth and sense of well being from my art.

    Part of this is healthy and part of it isn’t. The part of me that puts out a blog post and compulsively checks Facebook for the like count to go up most definitely is not healthy. I feel like i need to take on more and more projects and come up with amazing songs, blogs, shows… because it boosts my self esteem.

    2. I hate saying no

    Your blog is awesome and I love the post you wrote for my blog. I’m editing my post for this site right now… having a new baby is absolutely nuts.

  3. Wish I could remember where I read this last week: don’t confuse urgent with important (I am so guilty of this). And on the dog thing, I had the same trouble with my last pup. It was like she got distracted when she’d go out and forget to do her business. Plus, she had spay incontinence, so things got really ugly for awhile. But I started saying “do your business” every time she actually started to do it, and eventually had her trained to go on command- no more getting distracted, no more peeing in the house. And on road trips, she’d go right when I needed her to go- no waiting forever at rest stops. Good luck!

  4. I can really relate to the feeling of doing everything all the time. My to-do list isn’t just on paper. It hangs over my entire day, taunting me with the things I’m not getting done. I work on one project while feeling so frustrated that I’m not spending time on the next. And I find the tasks that take more time, or have a steeper learning curve, are the important ones that somehow keep getting pushed across the calendar. Once in a while I just have to stop everything else and take care of the tasks that are no fun, but that give the most impact to my use of time.

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