As a person that wears a lot of hats, one of them being someone with an autoimmune disease, I often struggle with overwhelm and getting burned out quickly. I can feel like a superhero if I go grocery shopping, walk the dog, and do laundry all in one day. In fact, the ability to complete basic household tasks without needing a day to recuperate might be an autoimmune super power.
Sometimes, I overwhelm myself with things that are potentially good for me. “I’m going to start this yoga challenge and revamp my diet and journal and meditate every day and start painting and read all of those unread books and put on real pants all right now!” I can be very all or nothing. Needless to say, I can also burn out very quickly.
My Schweetie is currently out of town for five weeks for work. I was looking at this time as a way to finally do all of those things and more. (Side note: I’m SO amazing at putting on real pants now!) One of the things I had planned was to start to knit my first sweater. I tried. I started and restarted about 4 times. I asked for help. I consulted with a very knitterly friend. I spent an entire Sunday trying to start knitting this sweater correctly. It wasn’t happening. I was frustrated and defeated. Then that spiraled into all of the other super awesome things that I was supposed to be doing to be a super awesome person while Schweetie is out of town.
Then it hit me: Now is not the time to knit that sweater.
In fact, now is not the time to do all of the things, even if many of those things are good for me. It’s time to focus on what is important and to even decide what hats to take off for a bit.
I started to think about what my main goals are for the rest of the year (only about 8 months left!) and I started to think about how I could comfortably make progress. As much as I like to be a creative, idea generating tornado, I thrive best when I have structure, a schedule, and clear expectations. I decide to operate from a list of my Can Dos, Have Tos, and Want Tos.
A Can Do is a thing that will move me toward a goal. They’re more free form choices and are usually remotely enjoyable. They include things like researching business card designs, studying information for a course I’m going to take, or contacting friends to ask if they’d be willing to let me practice skills with them. I try to keep the tasks short and sweet. This blog post is a Can Do.
My Have Tos are the less fun things. Much like the title says, they are things that I have to do. Things like checking my email, returning a business phone call, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or household things like laundry.
I use these lists to determine my Want Tos. I ask myself: “Out of these things, which do I want to do today?” Note that the Want Tos are still focused on achieving goals and getting work done, it just makes it a more comfortable process for me. I’m motivated to keep moving forward because I’ve got specific actions to choose from and most of them I really want to do.
I try to pick three to four things to tackle in a day. After those are completed, I might decide to take on more. After that, I do something just for fun…something that I really want to do like play with my dog or read a magazine or watch the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model or online shop for more pants.