This has been a surprisingly productive week.
I say surprising because the week absorbed a great many Halloween activities, including two classroom volunteering stints (coordinating pumpkin carving kits and crafts — not my strong suit) plus the usual parade and trick-or-treating.
The week also absorbed an unexpected Halloween nightmare in the form of the 3-year-old’s encounter with the bat. From Sunday to Thursday this involved two ER visits, one urgent care visit, plus numerous calls coordinating park rangers, the department of public health, pediatricians and infectious disease specialists. We now know that the bat tested negative for rabies, so we are in the clear. Phew.
Anyway, every Friday I make a priority list for the following week. I choose a handful of things in three categories — career, relationships, self — that I plan to do.
In the professional category, there are always some “have to dos” but I also try to list some purely speculative want-to-dos, or steps toward long-term projects that need to be done eventually, if they don’t have to be done right now.
When life gets busy, these are very easy to push off.
If I make my list really short, though, I can hold myself accountable to these tasks, and not push them off. Even when life gets busy. Even when life doesn’t go as planned.
Which is how I wound up spending yesterday writing 2500 words in my NaNoWriMo novel, scheduling the first meeting of a new professional group, and updating my registration in the federal government’s system of award management*, which involved getting my entity administrator letter notarized.
The notarizing in particular was on my radar screen for a while because I knew it would be a pain. I finally carved out time Monday afternoon to wade through the registration renewal process, print out my forms, and go visit a notary (front-loading the week!)
Then I wound up spending all of Monday afternoon in the ER.
But I generally try to schedule fewer things toward the end of the week, so there is space to absorb spillover from Monday when life happens. So I seized some time in the afternoon on Thursday to head over to the UPS store (where there are notaries!) to get the appropriate stamps and signatures.
There were other things I could have done with that block of time. But the beauty of making a weekly priority list is that I knew I had thought through what I wanted or needed to do this week, and the registration rigamarole had made the cut. So rather than putting it off to the future, hoping for a better time, I just did it. Same thing with the novel writing, and scheduling the group’s first meeting. A really short priority list can still happen, even when stuff comes up.
In other words, I plan because life doesn’t turn out as planned. There is no contradiction here.
I also think that creating a short weekly priority list has major psychological upsides. Despite the week’s curveballs, I still feel like I am making progress on things. I can relax and enjoy the extravagant fall color that has turned my neighborhood into an autumn wonderland. That’s much better than feeling panicked or uneasy that there’s something I should be doing, but I’m not.
Do you make a weekly priority list?
*So I can do speeches and workshops for federal government agencies.