I started jotting down what I wanted to accomplish each week, broken out by day. I’ll sit down on Monday and make a fairly spontaneous plan in my notebook, lightly filling out each day and then adding or moving or changing or scribbling things out as I go and the week progresses. It’s obviously not a revolutionary concept or anything but it’s helped me a lot recently. That’s surprising, for a couple reasons.
For one, I tend to do best under pressure, particularly when I have someone to let down. Erm, well, to hopefully not let down. When there’s a person relying on me—my work, my answer, my support, my presence, my whatever—it’s really quite easy for me to go do the thing. Even overcoming my anxiety to, for example, make an actual Phone Call for a person isn’t much of a problem. Except when that person is me, in which case pfft, I’ll get to it later. So any system whereby I’m the only one to hold myself accountable—like, say, a written list of to-do’s that only I can see—is bound to fail.
Secondly, staring at a list of tasks freezes my brain. I’ve been alive for a while now and still haven’t gotten a solid handle on this bit of my personality but I’m pretty sure it has to do with how detail oriented and linearly my mind functions. If the list isn’t detailed, with every step noted in order, I have to decide where to start. Taking the time and energy to flesh out the detail and decide where to start is a task in itself. Pfft, I’ll get to it later.
Oh, and thirdly: I’ve tried all this task list stuff before many, many, many times in different formats and layouts, digitally and in analog, and its never stuck. I should have mentioned that first.
But for some reason, this time, it’s working. It’s working really well.
One theory I have as to why is that in general, writing stuff down immediately cements things in my brain. Like, physically writing it down. On paper. With a pen. In early March, my orthodontist set my next check-in appointment for 5 months away. I wrote it down on a Post-it at the front desk myself, then threw away the Post-it without looking at it when I got home. I haven’t set any reminders or Google Calendar entries. I won’t forget because I wrote it down once. And it works even if I only write a vague inkling of the whole thought, like having simply written “orthodontist august” on the Post-It but still knowing it’s August 1st at 10am. (I can do this for pretty much any kind of information and I’m positive it will stop working as I get older, but not right now.) Typing the thing, I’ve discovered, does not have as strong an effect. So the fact that I just happened to go analog for this umpteenth attempt at task organisation is working in my favour, I think.
Another contributing factor is that I think my brain now considers my notebook to be a sentient being… kinda. Not in like a weird way! It’s just that my notebook is now who I’m accountable to. I’d better update it or I’ll have let it down and I’ll feel bad. And to update it, I need to actually do the things I told it I’d do. It’s perfectly reasonable and makes total sense.
Also maybe helping there is that fact that I really like this A5 notebook size and this brand of ringed binder with loose-leaf paper that I discovered and I made a cover for it and added stickers to it. It’s cute.
I also found a really good pen I like, I have some pretty pastel highlighters to use, and I designed my own weekly page layout in meticulous detail with weather and food and task and other logs and I print them myself to add to my notebook as I need them. Each day is a different colour of the rainbow!
So anyway, I vaguely plan my days now but that’s totally not the actual point of this post. Sorry I’m only telling you that now.
I’m starting to get to the point when I say, as part of designing my own “planner” pages for my notebook, I added in what the kids call a Habit Tracker. For the uninitiated, it’s just a grid with rows for writing down habits you want to form and columns (at whatever interval you want; usually daily) for checking off when you do that habit.
For example, I hardcoded a daily “Drink Water” habit into my tracker. The line for “Drink Water” is always there, solidified in ink when I print the page so I can’t avoid it. It taunts me, knowing I fucking hate drinking water but daring me to do it anyway so I stay hydrated, for fuck’s sake. I check the little box when I’ve done the thing. (It’s actually a little icon of a droplet of water and I fill it in with a pretty pastel blue highlighter. It’s very satisfying and almost worth drinking water for. Almost.)
My self-designed habit tracker has two additional lines, intentionally left open to write in whatever habit I want to try to take on that week. I was adding “Do Ring Fit” for about three weeks without checking any boxes before giving that one up.
This past Monday, when I was filling in my week and got to the habit tracker, I very inexplicably and without much thought added “Write Something”.
I used to write all the time. I won a poetry contest as a wee lass. In my angsty early teen years, I was writing a book about a girl called Jade who died and became a ghost so she could help people, including assisting her crush in finding a date for the dance. (Of course they were supposed to end up together in the end somehow, even though one of them was dead, but I never figured that part out.) In my late teens/early twenties, I had a blog that I updated almost every day; writing to no one in particular about nothing in particular. Then a LiveJournal that I updated every once in a while. Then a Tumblr kinda. There were several abandoned fanfics and other assorted writings in there somewhere too.
But I don’t write anymore. (I mean, I do for freelance work but that’s not the same.) If my random, completely spontaneous habit tracker entry is any indication, I apparently miss it.
I sometimes write about the ol’ Neopets days too but those aren’t the same either. Even though I quite enjoy them and definitely get something out of them myself, they’re mostly for other people and I feel obligated to give those a certain level of quality and care. That’s fine! And they’re great in their own way. But they’re not for me. Not like my writing used to be, anyway. If that makes any sense.
So, finally to the point here: I’m just gonna start writing stuff I guess. For me. So I can check it off in my habit tracker. Some will be quick and spontaneous and rambly without much thought given to polish (e.g., this post). Some will be fact; some will be fiction. Some will be very bad; some will be maybe decent if you squint. Some will be dumped here; some will be tucked away in Google Docs. (And yes, some will be Neopian. I’ll try to worry a bit less and forgive myself a bit more on those so I can get them out for anyone who still finds them interesting.)
But I’ll give it my best shot. I’ll start with once a week, maybe? And maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I can hardcode the “Write Something” line in my habit tracker so it’s always there, in ink. It’ll have little book icons that I can fill in with a pretty pastel lavender highlighter. And I’ll do it because I like it, and because Notebook-kun will be disappointed if I don’t.