I don’t remember when I started loving on planners, but it must’ve been in middle school sometime when I got my first one. Then, in high school, I got one of those faux leather ones. In college, I graduated to a portfolio sized one–with a zipper–that kind of became my wallet. Only I didn’t actually use them much for planning–mostly for writing little notes to myself or writing poetry. Or doodling when I was bored. I guess I just loved having a place for things. Kind of like a purse, but professional.
Over the years, my love of planners has extended to notebooks. I especially love colorful Moleskines. I have so many of them. Last year, in an effort to encourage myself to write and be more productive, I bought myself a bunch for all kinds of things. And, of course, really good pens. And colorful pens. Glittery ones. That obsession started in college.
Okay–okay–I may be obsessed with things made out of paper. And ink. I’m a writer. I’m allowed.
I’ve always had a really good memory, and more importantly, an anxious brain. So, part of the reason I didn’t use these tools as effectively as I wanted is because I’m always thinking of what I have to do next. It’s a serious problem for me that keeps me from ever fully relaxing. I panic if I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I have a really hard time doing nothing. Which is pretty much awful for me and often keeps me awake at night. Just knowing I have to be awake at 7 am will keep me wide awake until well after 3 am.
When I was an overachieving, self-sacrificing, controlling perfectionist (okay, maybe, I still am a bit of all of those things STILL)…this anxiety and memory thing worked really well for me. I was so motivated. I actually had energy. So, any thought in my brain usually got executed. Really well. Hours before it needed to be. I was probably really annoying.
Senior year of college, something hit me like a sledgehammer. I think I burned out. I still had energy. I still had anxiety. But, man, I had zero motivation. Keep in mind, I had spent about 8 years at that point beating myself into the ground while volunteering and working three jobs and writing for the paper and DJing and ALL THE THINGS. Not to mention helping my mother and commuting 3 hours a day back and forth to school/work. I never slept in college. At 5 am, you’d find me writing papers at one of my employers’ offices. (I had a key, and they didn’t care).
This time in my life was also when I sort of hit a wall in terms of knowing what I wanted out of my life, professionally. I basically felt paralyzed. And this entire thing set me off on a crazy path that reinforced my confusion and misery for a long time. It was painful.
In my 20s, some of my motivation slowly came back. But it took a friend dying to kick me in the ass. It was time to live, Goddamnit. So I was going to. I was going to be a teacher. I was going to go to school. I was going to find a boy to love me. I was going to travel. I was going to be the best daughter. I was going to save the damn world. And I did a lot of those things. As soon as I decided, a whole lot of things just showed up. Things that had been impossible? Not so much. And suddenly, I was the Achiever again. No planner this time. Just a bunch of looseleaf paper, a few sparkly pens, and highlighters. I would make my daily lists and highlight them as I finished. I was going for it.
My mother’s death slowed things down for me. On one hand, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I didn’t need lists. I had French scenes to guide me, but mostly I would write scene by scene. I still lived and did things, but it was mostly based on gut and instinct. If I made plans, I couldn’t trust them. I’d change them in a heartbeat, so I didn’t make plans often–which meant I started isolating myself in small ways.
There’s a part of me that will forever grieve the loss of that girl I used to be–the one who remembered everything and did everything. The one who was so reliable and rigid. The one I was proud to be.
But I’m not her now. And the me that exists now doesn’t always fulfill my perfectionist daydream, but she does okay most days.
She does her best.
She lives her heart.
She doesn’t have lists.
But she really, really loves lists.
And highlighting things.
And backwards planning.
My God, she loves these things so much. Especially if it means glitter pens and Moleskines.
So, I decided recently to put these parts of myself to good use. To harness that love and turn it into motivation to do the things I need to do. But not just those have-tos that other people define for me. But the things *I* want to do for me. Things like self-care. Things like harnessing the big goals. Things like having a life that feels more mine.
It’s in my head–all the time–always picking at me–always tormenting me. The shoulds. The want tos. The why don’t yous. When I don’t do things–or don’t want to do things–or feel bad for not doing things, so I give up–it’s like this death spiral. I can’t even tell you how demoralizing it is. How hard it is to keep going when I’m constantly reminding myself of crappy things. When I constantly feel overwhelmed and behind and like this awful failure. Because I’m comparing myself to the self I was when I had a different life.
When we decided to move, I systematically sought out tools that would help me. Because I knew I would go crazy if I didn’t manage this well. Because I’m not a trusting person and I need my little things to help me feel safe. Because I need to document and organize to feel in control and not lose my mind when everything is shifting around me. I needed something to support me in making this change an effective one that would serve my long-term goals.
This entire move has been methodically planned. I’ve taken my time with everything. I didn’t want to fuck it up. Because I knew–one wrong move–and I’d be in paralysis. It’s happened before. It’s why I stayed here for so long. So I thought long and hard about what I needed. And then I asked for that. And then I set up things to support me.
One of the apps I’m using for the move is Sortly. I believe the app is still basically free in the app store, unless you upgrade to Premium–which I did. Sortly is pretty cool because you can inventory every box you’ve packed, print out a label with a bar code, and stick that baby on the box. That way, you know exactly what is in every box, and you can easily confirm all the boxes made it to your new home. You can even take pictures for insurance purposes–or if like me–you’re crazy and want to document the condition of all the things. It makes packing a lot slower than my usual throw crap haphazardly in a box and hope it doesn’t implode thing. This methodical, careful approach to packing really makes me think about what I’m packing, how I’m packing, and why. It also forces me to think about where these items are going in my new home–so I can also think of what I might need to buy to hold it, what should go in storage, etc. I tell ya–before I got this app–I wanted to move all our food. Except the fridge stuff. And that is just crazytown. I even had half a box packed. I then realized a bunch was actually expired. And if I’ve had this bag of rice for 6 months, do I really need to move it? Can someone else use this?
So, I’m being pretty anal about what I’m moving. The baseline measure for me is a) Do I love it? b) Is it important to me? c) Will I use it regularly? If the answer to those three questions is no–it goes in the pile of decisions where I decide if I sell it, give it away, or put it in long-term storage. Which means money out of my pocket–every month. So far, I haven’t decided to keep any of the questionable items. Right now, the only things tugging on my heart? Furniture that belonged to my mother. It’s not my style. I need something better. But it was hers. I could refurbish these items, sure, but it would take a lot of work–and wouldn’t be hers anymore. So, I’m torn. I wouldn’t be able to sell it. No one would want it, probably. And putting in a trash heap is a no. So I might just store those things until I feel like I CAN make a decision. Sortly helps me document those things too. Oh, and I don’t know what to do with crutches. You never know when you’ll need those suckers. Especially when you’re me.
(BTW, Sortly is not paying me. I really do just love this app).
This week, I made a big decision to try to get more organized overall. I’d downloaded this app a while ago, but never registered or used it. It’s called Todoist. I am not using the Premium version. Basic seems to work pretty well for me, so far. What I love about this app is that there are Projects and sub-projects, so it’s really easy to organize things in logical ways. I tend to think of things in terms of topics. Like work, school, self-care, money… In Todoist, I can go nuts. I can even color code (yay). I can put deadlines–or not. So, it’s great for routine reminders as well as long-term planning. But what I love most is how I can use my backwards planning skills to create a really effective to-do list for things I want to accomplish that seem huge. Also adding self-care tasks and tasks to help me be kind to myself really help me stay on task. I check my list multiple times a day. I know exactly what I need to get done and when. I’m planning on using this to chisel away at some of my Mighty List stuff (which, BTW, I haven’t updated in like 2 years…good Lord). I’ve done stuff, just not really on purpose. This app will help me make it more on purpose. Yay. The best part of it is that it feeds into my perfectionism psychosis with this feature they call Karma. So, when you do things when you’re supposed to, you get points. When you don’t do things, you lose points. I can’t tell you how helpful this is for me–how many times I’ve done things just because I didn’t want to damage my Karma. It’s a metaphor for how I feel when I don’t do things, so it’s great reinforcement. So far, taking care of myself has been much much easier. It does take some time to set-up, and there are a few buggy issues, but it’s mostly very intuitive to use and helpful.