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On (Not) Getting It All DoneJune 24, 2014

I’ve been beating myself up lately. I figured I’d just do it here publicly because you know what? I often admit things here, to you, and then I end up feeling better. I realize I’m normal. I’ve shown you depression, and despair, and grief, and debt. And after I do, I always feel better, because the black thing that claws at our souls is shame, and it can’t live in the light. Just speaking it aloud rips it apart into tiny jagged bloody pieces that shrivel up and then, mercifully, blow away. 

So here I go. 

I’ve been beating myself up for not getting enough work done. 

Yes, I work all the time, both at the day job and the writing job. But I still--always--have more to do, and worse: more that I planned to do. That’s the hardest part for me. Right now I’m writing this blog because I thought of the piece I’m supposed to finish writing, and I was exhausted by the very idea of facing it again. The reason I’m exhausted by thinking about it is because I haven’t had enough sleep. And the reason for that is because of the work. A dear friend told me, “It’s okay just to put one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to do two jobs at the same time.” That felt right, and good, and it made that tight place between my shoulder blades drop an inch or two. 

It’s like meditation. You’re here now. (No. Hi. *waggles fingers* I’m talking to you. YOU are here now (and your hair looks great, by the way). Your eyes are reading my words and because of that, because my fingers are moving, catching my thoughts, the thoughts you’re reading this very second, we have a connection. So I’m telling you, you don’t have to do anything right now but read. And breathe. Feel the air go into your lungs, and then let the air out. There. Wasn’t that nice? Let’s hang out like this more often.)

It’s okay to put one foot in front of the other. And more: it's okay to stop moving entirely. All living things need rest (and if this isn't true, if some scary cephalapod that lives on the ocean floor and changes skin to look like a different scary sea creature to protect itself doesn't actually need rest, please don't tell me, because I don't want to know). YOU need rest (this I know). 

All those other things I’m beating myself up for not doing (building the garden, eating the right things, sleeping enough, having a tidy-enough house), they’re all just an offshoot of Not Getting Enough Done.

It's said you can’t ever have enough money (oh, but I’d like to give it a shot!). It's true of time, too. You  never have enough time to do it all. Obviously, this is true in the tragic sense: young lives lost too early, old lives lost with yet more living to do; but it’s also true in the Today sense. I can’t (ever) do everything on my To Do list. JEEBUZ CHRISTO, I wish I could. On my ideal day I'd write five thousand words, have lunch with friends, walk the dogs, take a nap, tidy something, make a great meal, and do a craft of some sort. In the evening, I’d go on a date, see family and friends, host a dinner, and go to a movie, all the while getting to bed in time for eight hours of sleep. 

Put that way? It’s ludicrous. Of course we don’t have enough time. So let’s pare it down again. We have now. Your butt is planted exactly where it’s seated right now, unless you’re reading this on a bus or train, in which case you’re probably standing and your butt is swaying in front of someone’s newspaper (don't think about that). But you’re there, where you are. Right now. I’m here, in my chair. My fingers are warm, my toes are cold, and the smell of my garlic sweet potato fries is in the air. 

I’ve got time for THIS. For you. And apparently, you have a bit of time for me. That’s a very nice thing, indeed.

2014-06-19 13.06.19-1

Two dogs Not Getting Much Done At All

 Let’s stop beating ourselves up. We won’t--because we can’t--get it all done today. I hereby give you permission to get less done than you wanted or planned to. And I hope that gives you the space to have something (a nap! a hug! an ice cream cone!) unexpected happen. Tell me about it if it does? 


I am 60(gasp! How the hell did THAT happen?) Might be the only thing I have learned over the years...if you do not do it today; it will still be there tomorrow. I at least try to catch up but it does not always happen.

As always, thanks for the gift of you that is this blog. Getting sick taught me a bit about backing off on the self flagellation. But only because I physically couldn't do/be/achieve. And I learned not to think less of myself. ((Hugs))

Oh, how I needed this today. I paused in revision 974 of the to-do list to read your post, and I'm going to try and just end the to-do list right where it is. Just there. No more things getting added to it. That's enough for today. There is just too much amazing in the world to manage to get to all of it.

You're playing my song, sigh. Hugs and thank you.

Oh yes, oh yes, all this. I have had a million things on the to-do list lately and I've been in a constant state of prioritizing: which things absolutely HAVE to happen today, and which ones can I let slide? But yesterday afternoon when the baby was napping so I felt like I should be accomplishing something productive, I made popsicles with my twins instead and we sat on the porch swing together and ate them. It was so much better than crossing one or two things off the list.

I have been putting one foot in front of the other for weeks now. And the Season of Relentless Celebration (and, yes, BUYING A YARN SHOP!) is not over yet. This is my unexpected moment: breathing, connecting with you, forgiving myself for those things I am not getting done, and appreciating everything (it's a lot!) that I am getting done. Today I'm taking the time to take care of myself. I can run myself ragged tomorrow.

Oh the to do list. It's so big that even looking at it just causes me to shut down and do nothing and then feel bad about doing nothing. I'm trying to pare it down and really focus on a small number of essential or really good things rather than the super stretch goals my to do lists always seem to become.

Oh thank you. I think perhaps I will just re-read this blog post every morning, and it will really help that same tight place I have been my shoulder blades (so glad I am not the only one).

One of the things I do that helps a little is to remember that while I am not getting it all done, I do get a lot done. So recently I added another list next to my "To Do List" -- my "Done List".

I so needed this today Rachel. You have such a great way of saying exactly how I'm feeling sometimes :) Big hugs right back to you!

Oh God the work never done...

A nasty vicious cycle it is - the more overwhelm, the less able, the less done, the more overwhelm...

And it spills into everything not work too. But here I am!

So, here's the thing: Of course the housework can be put off. Of course seeing friends is important and fun and enriching. Or course I take time to smell the peonies and look at the little tomato flowers. Of course I can't do everything on my to-do lists - so what else is new?

The real problem is that I can't do whatever it is that really must be done before I die because I'm not really sure what that is. I know it is Some Sort of Making Things, but what, exactly? And I'm always Making Stuff - knitting, spinning, weaving, gardening - but is the stuff I make worth making? Will someone unearth the sweater I'm knitting 50 years from now and say, oh, my, that's lovely. Or walk on a rug I've woven and think, this is a good rug. Or sleep under a handspun blanket of a particular design and think, this blanket is so wonderful, it makes me feel special.

So, what is on the REAL to-do list, eh? There's the rub.

Oh, Lynn @ 13:57, get right down off that crazy-making merry go round. All that you make is worth making. ALL of it. I have spent the last month convinced that every day I do something wrong that offends someone, crying a lot, and generally feeling horrid. Then the other day my Durwood said "the woman I married didn't think that way." Stopped me in my tracks. I've been hard at work this week thinking about all I'm doing--job work, house work, yard work, knitting work, granddaughter babysitting work, wife work--remembering that the doing is good. No one but me is judging me and I need to give myself a break, for pity's sake. Sounds like you do too.

Thanks, Rachel.

Boy I needed this today. You have no idea how much. Thanks.

Someone once told me (or maybe I read it?) that "When you die, there will still be stuff in your inbox." That changed things for me. I think about that all the time, now and shrug when I feel overwhelmed and start freaking out.

I needed that! I only got about half as much done as I wanted to today! Tomorrow is another day....thanks for reminding me yo stop and breathe!

I just really "need" to get all the balls in the air at the same time. Just once. I constantly juggle, just not fast enough.

Yay for all this, sister.

My taking a break was sitting outside for the first nice evening in ages and having a drink with my husband and discussing things we are usually too busy to talk about -- our future, our hopes, our reality (with a capital "R") and just breathing! Thank you for sharing and thank you for writing! One step at a time!

Thank you. I had to hear that. I am feeling guilty for not getting all done. I was taking a few days off work to do what???? Catch up with the stuff I could not get done. After reading this, I think I will take the time off to get nothing done.

Thanks, I'm definitely gonna slow down. Maybe tomorrow....;) Seriously, if I'm not in charge of getting "it" done, it just doesn't get done. But I will try to keep in mind one step at a time. Goddess Bless You.

Thank you so much for this post... it really is what I needed to read today, especially after a long and frustrating day of work, capping off a long and frustrating couple of weeks as our production year winds down and everything has to be perfect for the Big Upload... next week is vacation, and I know that I am going to slow down and spend it on the beach, or in the water, with my sons. And on the train. Love the train!
But it is a little creepy that you must have peeked inside my head to know that I needed to hear this, right?! ;-)

I can relate. For another voice on the subject, check out this song by Cheryl Wheeler. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWOx95nje4Y&feature=kp

Wishing all of us peace and the ability to relax without guilt. xo

All I have to say is MWAH! It's never all going to be done... and if it could be, then what would we do? I've been re-prioritizing sleep, and reminding myself that my health is actually really important for getting things done.

This post took me as long to read as it took for my coffee pot to perk, so for those few minutes all I had to do was hang out to you and listen to the coffee being made. Thanks for hanging out with me for those few minutes.

Thanks too for sharing this great post, both because its letting us in to your inner life, and because its something we all need to hear from time to time.

When I'm confronted a to-do list (mostly of my own making) and feel completely incapacitated, I try to remember (and embrace?) a phrase that has stayed with me: we call ourselves human beings... not human doings... Thank you for sharing this "now" time!

Thumbs. If the furry dependents had thumbs, the chore list would be complete before you walked in the door. It's not you. It's them. And it's an evolution thang.
Try making a list of EVERY thing you did do...lifesaving gets extra points. Then go take a nap-THAT list made you dizzy.
Psssst...so glad your what I did today list included blogvisiting with me...my day is brighter!

I used to make these massive To Do lists at work that just kept growing until the page was full and I never felt like I was getting anything done. A while back I started spreading the To Dos out across the double page spread of my desk calendar, there might still be 30 things on the list but now I don't feel like I have to do all 30 today making me a little less frantic when I get last minute requests, multiple interruptions and balky equipment.

There is always more to do than there is time to do it. Most time management stuff hasn't really worked that brilliantly for me, but I found The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr to be really helpful. It is about managing your energy so that when you sit down to do something, you actually have enough f*cks to give to see it through. It's brilliant for helping identify/fix/prevent burnout while actually getting the stuff that you care about done. Basically, they are HUGE proponents of the 'stop moving entirely when you damn well need to' school of thought.

Good luck!

Holy shit, woman! You get SO MUCH DONE. I check in with your blog and you have done full time job and extra full time writing job and had an awesome party or 3 and now you bike everywhere and sew dreses and knit sweaters and make awesome food and go to beach with your dogs and then to Italy and SO MUCH AWESOME. I am in awe of what your todo list must look like. Lately I am doing good if I get the bills paid, go to work, wear mostly clean clothes, and cook something that has something fresh in it.

You are awesome. Don't ever let that list of shoulds tell you you're not.

The old cliche "You don't know what you have until you lose it" applies to me. I have an illness that causes me to be extremely fatigued so I never know from day to day whether I can even look at a to do list or not. No judgement here, just a wish to be back in it again. To know that tomorrow will be filled with rushing and doing and accomplishing at least a minor portion of a list. Enjoy it my friends. It really is wonderful to be alive!

Sighing. . . as I wonder how, even though I'm busy and getting things done dawn to dark. . . how is it that my to-do list gets longer instead of shorter? One of the mysteries of life.

Wishing you a fabulous book tour! Marlene

I forget to read your blog sometimes. I don't forget, I get all twitterpated. But here you are, being just as raw and deep and just-right as always. And I LOVE it. I love you. Thanks for this. (TIME!! Shakes fist! Shakes head! Is. still. Grateful.) xo

It took me a while to learn this so I give myself a "Do Nothing Day" once a week. Mine is today. I will do nothing - and my nothings are fun! For example, as soon as I finish saying hello to you (Hello! So nice to spend time with you today. I love your outfit, you look fabulous!!), I plan on plopping down in my favorite chair with my current shawl that I'm crocheting and watch Season Two of "Downton Abbey". The whole thing - all of it, in one go... because Do Nothing Days are about whatever tickles my fancy and recharges my batteries for my work week ahead. There will be no chores of any kind because here is a secret that no one told me - the dishes and laundry don't mind waiting an extra day to get done. No one will turn you in to the 'housekeeping police' if you eat on a paper plate when you aren't having a picnic. If company comes by, they're there to see you - not your house - so if they can't step over the shoes by the door, that's their issue.

The healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to make sure to recharge your creative soul. These little Do Nothing Days saved my life - literally. I highly recommend them. Now, where should I meet you and Lala for that ice cream - it sounds delicious!!

Hi! (Thank you, I got it cut over the weekend! Really needed it--and the chair massage you get at the salon I go to is absolutely wonderful!). Funny you should post this, because I've recently started meditating daily with an app--which is nice because my brain goes everywhere and it's good to be guided. It also offers mindful thinking exercises (for walking, cooking!, etc). I don't have as busy a life as yours, but I do work in an office full time, and I have a husband and a teenager. So life gets a bit busy. So I thought I would try and take time to focus on nothing each day. And it's quite nice. I look forward to more visits with mindful nothingness.
Great post! Thanks, Rachael

I've known for quite sometime that it's not possible for me to get everything done in a day that I had planned (ever). But I didn't know that it was "ok" :) Thanks, Rachel. Have a good one.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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