keeping up, not catching up

So I've been pretty overwhelmed, lately. New babies and other challenges will do that, I suppose. My list of things to do seems to grow by the minute, and my list of things I've finished hasn't kept up. In fact, my to do list is so long that I haven't had the heart to write any of it down. There's just too much, and looking at that long list would be overwhelming. Not interested, no thanks. I have enough happening to make me second-guess every move I make; I don't need a piece of paper serving up even more self-doubt. Should I be doing this, or should I be doing that? Should I sit here and play with the baby, or should I do dishes? What's more important, picking up the mess in the middle of the room, or lying on my back for a few minutes to get the spasms under control? The less physical evidence of something needing attention, the better.

When you're overwhelmed, it's best to do something, anything. That's one thing I've learned from being on the Flylady bandwagon for more than 4 years. (That, and it's easier to get housework done when I have my shoes on.) So last night as I was collapsed in bed and wondering what in the world I managed to accomplish for yet another day, I decided to revisit my old time management skills, with the return of the Top Three.

It was time to make my Top Three each day - the three things I wanted to accomplish that day. I don't need a full-blown list of everything I need to do - because there's so much of it, that I can't go for more than about 10 seconds without seeing something else that needs to be done; it'll be a while before I have to think for more than 2 seconds to come up with at least 3 things that need to be done ASAP.

With this new plan in place, I eventually fell asleep with a little bit of hope that maybe my days will feel a little more manageable, a little less chaotic.

This morning, I promptly forgot about the three things thing for a little bit, but then I got overwhelmed again and (eventually) remembered. So I thought about doing just the most urgent things. Then I thought about doing the three easiest things. Then I thought about doing the things with the biggest impact. Then I thought about doing the things that will set me up for more things to do tomorrow. And then I thought about doing the things that have been waiting the longest.

Did you follow that?

And then I just decided to go with my instincts. (My therapist says I have very good instincts.)

So I eventually settled on these three:

1. Finish doing the laundry and put it all away, for the love of Pete. (This is in the most urgent AND biggest impact categories.)
2. Figure out how to print the 200 address labels that I'll need to slap on the 200 birth announcements at some point, and print them. And put them with the box of birth announcements. (This is in the easiest and setting up for tomorrow categories.)
3. Finish rehabbing my stash of cloth diapers. (I was washing them wrong, and killed the elastic in almost all of my diapers. Probably 25 of them. I've been in the process of rehabbing them for at least a month, and today I had just a few to go.)

And guess what! It's 8pm and I did my three things! And I've even thought about what I need to do tomorrow, too. Ok, I'll be honest: I've already written my list for tomorrow. It's 8pm and the baby's asleep for at least the next 3 hours, so I thought I'd get a little crazy.

Now, for the first time since I-can't-remember, I feel like I have actual free time on my hands. Yes, I still have a million things to do (and sleep is one of them!), but because I already did my top 3, I'm letting myself have the rest of the day off. Anything else I accomplish is a bonus. Or I could make some dinner for myself. Or I could sit and read a book (Fannie's Last Supper). Or I could work on some knitting (socks for me).

My life is still in chaos. My coffee table is still piled 8 inches high, my back is still spasming and I still don't have any idea how much money is (not) in the checking account. But I've only been at this list thing for a day, and for the first time in a very long time, I feel ok with the chaos.

I just may be onto something, here.

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