Oh No She Didn't
I'm a list girl. Need to shop? I write a list, ensuring I don't have to painfully drag six heaving bags to the front door, plastic handles threatening to cut off circulation to half my fingers, only to realise I forgot something vital like toothpaste. Need to remember work assignments? Calendar list. Need to write letters to relatives to thank them for gifts I've temporarily misplaced? Post-it list. Need to plan a surprise party without leaving hints around the house? Phone list. It soothes me to know that anything significant in my life is likely to be recorded somewhere, waiting for me to notice it and take action. Today I found a list from November 2013 of things I felt would be valuable enterprises in my life. Some of them were pretty basic, others fairly long-term aspirational. The thing that immediately struck me was that out of thirteen things, I've only done two and started working on another two - so that's what, about a 30% success rate? (Don't be mean, maths isn't my strong suit). Here's the list: Re-learn French. Latin dance classes. Paris. New Zealand. Write a book. Finish knitting Stan's jumper. Join a choir. Become healthier/fitter. Write to friends more often. Move house. Graduate. Study something new. Do a life drawing class. I didn't write these in order of importance or intended achievement; it was more a case of as they occurred to me, and I'm sure there were - and definitely are - other items worth including. I don't realistically expect some of them to occur for a good few years, if even this decade. The ones I have achieved are graduating (four years late, that's another story) and moving house, while I'm currently working on my fitness and writing to people more frequently, so I can count some successes. But it made me sad to see how many of them should have been at least started by now and in reality hadn't been given more than a second thought since that list was penned. I just haven't got around to it. There's an adage I could readily apply here: 'procrastination is the thief of time'. It was originally written by Edward Young in his poem 'Night-Thoughts', published in the 1740s, but it was probably Dickens who brought it more into common parlance when he had Mr Micawber reference it in David Copperfield. He added what I always thought was a valuable exhortation: 'Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!' It's a great Dickensian image - some grubby slip of a boy in a dirty shirt, dipping his slim hands into pockets and suddenly, we've lost an hour, a day, a month. Collar him indeed - that sly spoiler of our best intentions! Only when I move away from the imagery and really think about it, how do I collar procrastination? It's myself I need to grab by the scruff of the neck and march off to be disciplined - my own failure to manage my time that needs addressing. My family and close friends will know I'm terrible for biting off more than I can chew. It's not actually that I'm incapable of achieving what I commit to, necessarily, just that I fail to plan properly to achieve it. I never allow enough time for the things that matter, either because I underestimate what is required or because I allow myself to be distracted by less important things, but things that shout louder. 'Pick me, I'm urgent, you need to do this NOW!' they squeal, and sometimes they're right but often, more often than I would like to admit, they're just the boggarts on the tasklist. I'm afraid that if I don't deal with them straight away terrible things will happen - they appeal to my lack of confidence, a victim mentality, the idea that all this is happening to me. The only way I can take control is to face those fears head-on, and stop shifting the blame onto external circumstances. I'm going to re-write that list this week, and I'm going to find a way to make some of them reality in the coming months. I'm sure there will always be other important or urgent things to deal with, but the fact is that we need to make space for recreation, for relationship, for bettering ourselves, if we are ever going to be of any use in life. Please feel free to challenge me on this if you see me or write to me - I always need the reminder! I'll aim to post progress on the blog periodically as a little victory record, so I can turn my oh no she didn'ts into oh yes she did.