Heart's Garden · Something to Think About

Adding To Do Items onto a To Do List

So many organizational systems do not account for a trip to the fabric store, where immediately I have to reshuffle, re-prioritize not only my To Do List, but also my sewing room. I have five red tabs in my Get To Work Book and they read To Do 1, To Do 2 and so on to the fifth one. I have half-filled lists in my quilting planner. A lot is crossed off using my yellow highlighter, but when your organizational lists get out of control, how do you organize and get things done?

Research: I read this article which suggests compiling four different types of lists: Master, Monthly, Weekly, Daily (he describes them on the site). Lisa Jackson recommends a service called WorkFlowy under the post title of A Tool for Organizing Your Brain. Bette has declared this the Year of Focus and has organized segments of the year dedicated to her sewing goals. Sherri of A Quilting Life has a good planner for quilting goals.

And here’s my classic Goals List from over two decades ago. I should frame this–what an ambitious woman I used to be! (I’ve abandoned housework, physical fitness goals and scrapbooks — but did complete most of the quilts in the list. I also got the children raised.)

As we’ve noticed, our lives have shifted underneath us. We kept going, but perhaps our outlook changed, our friendships dwindled or expanded. I liked Brad Stulberg’s article, where he writes:

“Many of us felt seen when, last April, the organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote of languishing, “a sense of stagnation and emptiness … as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” There was a relief in having a name for our experience, and a kind of solace in realizing that we weren’t alone in experiencing it. But now, nearly a year later, as with just about everything related to Covid, we’re sick of languishing too.”

Perhaps that’s why when I went to QuiltCon in February, I tried to find things to give me a spark. I loved my two classes from Cassandra Beaver and Verushka Zarate, and enjoyed the lectures. It was fun to see people again in the wild, but there were some interesting moments of confusion in identifying people because we were all masked. And perhaps that’s why — when I went into a real-live quilt shop in Phoenix, and maybe because they gave QuiltCon-ers 20% off, I snapped up a range of beautiful colored semi-solids. Some one in line asked me what I was going to do with all those, all I say was, “We’re supposed to have a plan before we buy?”

Perhaps I was exhibiting Stulberg’s mention of “behavioral activation…based on the idea that action can create motivation, especially when you’re in a rut.” He writes:

“The challenge with behavioral activation is mustering enough energy to start acting on the things that matter to you: Make that phone call, schedule that walk with friends, write that email, get off social media and start on the creative project you’ve been procrastinating on. This may sound simple, but when you are languishing, simple does not mean easy.

“But a mind-set shift can be a powerful tool. When you feel down, unmotivated or apathetic, you can give yourself permission to feel those feelings but not dwell on them or take them as destiny. Instead, you shift the focus to getting started with what you have planned in front of you, taking your feelings, whatever they may be, along for the ride. Doing so gives you the best chance at improving your mood.”

So To Do lists can sometimes become exercises in bloodless planning, an attempt to get organized (which is why my planner often has blank spaces). But walking into a fabric shop now becomes behavioral activation. That, we can all get behind.

So my To Do lists are more random. This was going to be my year of Focus, a la Bette, but then I started the Heart’s Garden Mystery Quilt-A-Long, which I had all sketched out. And which I totally scrubbed after Step One and rebuilt it anew. Which was no where on my Yearly To Do List. Here’s my first sketch:

Yep. Pretty hideous, excepting those EPP circles. I even got the birds around the border, but they look more like quail, than sparrows or finches. I’ve been working on writing up Part 3, which is coming next week, and part of that is making birds over and over, as I perfect the pattern:

blue and yellow blocks, for Ukraine

So I write — and cross off — “sparrows” on my To Do List, and wander back into the sewing room for some pleasant Behavioral Activation. I wish the same for you.

Happy Quilting!

12 thoughts on “Adding To Do Items onto a To Do List

  1. I am working hard at learning to go with the flow! First tax season in hmmmmm 30 years? where I have only had to worry about my own! But I do like the rhythm of a QAL or a BOM. Of all my quilts, the two I loved making the most were my farmers wife and o Christmas tree. Both QAL’s led by awesome leaders (you! And Kerry Green) and really challenging quilts, each in their own way.

  2. I am laughing at your expense, so sorry Liz, LOL. It seems absurd that as I age I need to keep organized. In the day of young children, working full time, raising our families and managing a home that I would have needed more organizational tips then, but the brain was adept at organizing and remembering. Now in these elder years and taking on more levels of personal interests, I find that I need to have lists because I’m doing more and thinking I’m remembering less. Either way, I know I am enjoying life to the fullest and isn’t that what we would all hope to be doing.

  3. I’m glad you picked up some fabric just because and had a good time at QuiltCon. The thing about my to-do lists is that they are in pencil, and deciding not to do something still means I get to cross it off the list. 😉 I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I am exhausted just reading your March 2000 to-do list! You really were a dynamo….! Not that you don’t put me to shame now with all your plans, energy and making! While I eagerly await part 3 of Hearts Garden❤️, I seem to fill my days with a little making, a little housework ( as little as possible!) and a lot of languishing. I seem to remember that term from 2020, or last year. Have you written about it before – maybe that’s where your links go? Sorry if my old brain is not remembering this correctly…… Anyway, thanks for your insights, always interesting to read.

  5. I am going to have to remember that line you used at the quilt shop! It’s perfect. I know that I accomplished a lot more in the days before computers. I go down too many rabbit holes. Even with raising kids and working, I got more done. I have yet to write down plans. I guess that I have always felt that I could be accomplishing something rather than writing it down. Same with New Years resolutions! I have come to the realization that I will never in this lifetime finish everything that I want.

  6. Languishing. Yeah, I think I’ve been feeling some of that. But I really like the term “behavioral activation.” I know that if I can just get myself to actively do something, it spawns an uplifting of spirits and leads to actual creativity.

  7. I applaud the retort, You mean I have to have a plan before I buy? Nor do painters need a plan before buying pigment. My fabric is my resource! And while I cringed at the rigidity of a daily/monthly/master plan concept, I realize I operate with “behavioral activation.” Something in process is so much easier to work on; it’s starting that takes the nudge.

  8. So much angst over a to-do list! As another commenter said, “Go with the flow.” As I get older, I am living more and more that way. I’m too old to change how I function so, que sera sera. I’m envious of you getting to go into a quilt shop in Phoenix! You must have had a car. Getting out would have been wonderful, as I was disappointed in not finding QuiltCon vendors that solid fabrics or spools of Aurifil to fill stash holes. I love the fabrics you picked up. No project in mind? Ha! Obviously that quilter hasn’t been at it as long as you and me. I am sure you’ll be using them effectively, and probably in the not-too-distant future.

  9. Ah the to-do list. Sometimes I add something to the list that I have just completed so I can cross it off and feel efficient. In my opinion, you never need a specific idea for fabric purchases. Although this year the breadth of my stash has really gotten to me so I’m tracking fabric in and out in an effort to use more and buy less. We will see how long that lasts.

  10. I never need a reason to buy fabric but after recently resorting my stash I’m sure trying hard to use what I have this year and not buy as much. We’ll see how that goes. Long ago I gave up on strict to do lists. Now I make lists only as a means of freeing up my mind. Mostly I go with what ever motivates me each week. What gets done gets done. I’m sure I could be more productive but have realized that’s not my strong point so I don’t get hung up on it too much. Whatever I do is forward progress and I’m ok with that.

  11. For what it’s worth, I still use a pared-down version of Alan Lakein’s classic system (which I used to teach). It works as well as anything, but like other systems, doesn’t play well with trips to the quilt shop 😀 And no, there is NOT a requirement to have a plan before we buy fabric!!!

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