Wherein the To Do List Teaches Patience

If you read my last post you know that we’ve been incredibly busy.  Well, I am always busy with projects I assign myself, but above and beyond that, we’ve just had a lot of events going on, as is the case every summer.  And every fall.  And every spring, come to think of it.  In fact, I think the only time we’re not busy is during tax season (February – mid-April) when my accountant husband works long hours and 6-7 days a week.  But I myself am always busy with my to do lists and projects.

And while that (master) list is never-ending (long term), and while the master list breaks down into any number of other lists, and while it frustrates me quite a bit that it’s never completely finished, I couldn’t live without it because the truth is, it keeps me sane, keeps me from having to remember every last little thing that comes to mind, and for that reason, it keeps me from stressing (for the most part) about what “must” get done.

But recently, my to do list is also teaching me patience.  To explain fully, I must go back a bit.

I have several lists that correspond to the area in which they apply.  So, for example, I have a household list.  Actually, I have a few different household lists:

1.  Long Term Household list:

2.  Household To Buy list:

3.  Short Term Household list:

So when we have time for a household project—or, if the need to attend to the item becomes an immediate need—I will choose something from the short-term list.  These are items that we want to get to sooner rather than later and can choose one thing once a week or once a month, depending on the amount of time and money we can put into the project.

The same goes for the long-term to do list.  These are items that we need to attend to at some point in the future but (as of this time) don’t need to be done in any particular time frame.  Every once in a while I will check this list to see if an item has become more important or if we can attend to any of them.  Needless to say, most of these items have been here for a while.  But someday we’ll tackle them.

In addition, I also have a household to buy list.  When we have some extra money, I might pick something from this list to purchase for the house.  These are items that we want to get at some point but that have no immediate need.

Once we pick a project to work on from either the short- or long-term list, it becomes a project (if the item requires multiple steps) and gets its own sheet in the “Projects” section of the household binder.  So, for example, from the short-term list above, our next project is the “VT Picture Project.”  This project consists of taking our favorite photos from all of our Vermont trips, getting them printed, framing them, and making those framed photos into a wall collage.  Since this project has multiple steps, I created a project sheet for it:

Having a separate detailed list allows me to check off each step as it is completed.  Once all of the steps are completed, and therefore the project itself is complete, the item on my short-term list will be crossed off.  In the meantime, while we’re working on it, the item gets a check mark over the bullet so that I know it’s “in progress” in some fashion.

I also keep a monthly list of items that I want to either get done or purchase for any given month.

This allows me to prioritize and spread out my spending and to put tasks out of my mind until they need to be attended to.  Some of these tasks may come from the above lists or any other list.  The general rule for items here is that it’s something I want to tackle within the month.  If an item needs to be taken care of on a particular day, I will write the item on the day it needs to be done and put a check mark next to the item on the monthly list.  When it’s finished, it gets crossed out on both the day’s list and the month’s list and any other list where it lived previously.  If it doesn’t get done by the end of the month, I move it to the next month or reschedule it accordingly.

A lot of work, maybe.  But it keeps me sane and keeps my mind organized as to what can be scheduled when.  These are (for the most part) items that are not immediate and have no bearing on the house functioning properly.

All of this is background information for what comes next.

In June we had a “little” debacle.  This is where it gets hairy because one already-major item snowballed into several important items.

One morning I heard an abnormal white noise in the house.  After some searching I found out that it was coming from our garage, opened the door to the little closet there, to find that our hot water heater was spewing water everywhere.  My husband promptly turned off the water, only rather that turning off the water to the heater itself, he accidently turned off the water to the entire house.  This would have been fine except for the fact that in so doing, the valve to the house water broke (it was old).  In order to fix that, the water would have to be turned off at the street.  For this, we needed a plumber.  My husband called one, and, thankfully, he came within 30 minutes.

Since we live in a town home, it was not easy to find the valve at the street level.  I kid you not when I say that the plumber and my husband searched for this thing for 8 hours.  In the pouring rain.  And in searching for it, they had to tear up our front bushes and drill holes in our driveway.  And for whatever reason, the association could not assist us in telling us where this valve is.  After a very long and very stressful day, they finally found this valve in a flowerbed, more than a foot beneath the surface.  So yeah, very difficult to find.

The next steps were to replace the valve to the house line, after which the hot water heater could be attended to.  But from there, we also needed to address the front yard where the bushes had been torn out and the driveway which now had a ton of little drill holes in it. 

This one issue led to a number of other things.

Now, these items are things that need to be attended to rather quickly.  These are items that we could be fined for by the association if we let them go for too long.  So these items cannot live on a long-term or short-term or even a monthly list.  They need to be in front of my eyes at all times so that we can decide what needs to be done next and how soon we need to get to it.  My mind was spinning with all of the issues that needed to be taken care of, and when they are items that need to be attended to as soon as possible, I tend to get a little antsy—I just want them done so that I can put it out of my mind and move on and not worry about any financial repercussion that may or may not come our way from the association.

Enter the DayTimer Hot Sheet.  This little half-page punched sheet allows me to put my list right behind my page marker where I can see it daily and check items off as I go.  It has been perfect for this use.  I can see the breakdown of what needs to be done.  But I can also see the progress we have made.  This list is in essence teaching me to be patient, that in time, it will all get done (unlike my short-term or long-term lists which get new items just as quickly as items are removed).

Once I decided that I needed to make a separate list for this project and once I pulled out my Hot Sheets, I got to work in making that list.

With the help of this list, we have accomplished a few items so far:

1.  new hot water heater installed

2.  driveway repaved (don't mind the little dirt trail)

3.  new plants have been purchased and will be planted this afternoon

As of right now, our to do list is still longer than our accomplished list but that’s okay.  Even with more planting to do to replace our currently dying plants…

…and weeding to be done…

…and bees nests to be taken care of…

…(yes, among all of the rest of this, we found that there’s a hive in the soffit by our back patio with tons of bees flying in and out), we are making progress.  We have even come up with a few other items to do as well, things to research and whatnot.  All of this has gone on the “Keep In Mind” list.  This has morphed into a list of things that either need to taken care of ASAP or things that I want to look into at some point, mainly things that don’t have a specific due date but that I don’t want to forget about.

This specific list has become my savior as of late.  It has allowed me to eliminate being so overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be taken care of soon.  It has allowed me to stop worrying about how we will get it all done and pay for it all.  It has allowed me to see that chipping away at these items week by week will be the only way we will get to the finish line—because in this case, there is a finish line.  In short, this list is everything that my other lists are but the difference here is that these are super important items that were once hanging over my head screaming “Take care of us now!”  Now they’ve simply pulled up a lawn chair and said, “Take you’re time; we’ll be here when you’re ready.”

This list has not only taught me the patience I needed for this project but has shown me what a little patience can bring—peace of mind that yes, it will all get done, all in good time.