Sunday, September 8, 2013

Making Lists Helps Keep Things Under Control

Every once in awhile I get to feeling pretty overwhelmed.  That generally happens when I believe I've got so much to do that I can't even begin to choose what to do first.  That's when the list comes in.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't write down every single chore needing attention.  That would just begin the feeling overwhelmed cycle all over again.  I write down no more than a half dozen things I want to do.  A half dozen chores seems manageable.  And very quickly I am able to cross things off of the list.
Arnold Lobel wrote a wonderful serialized children's story about a Frog and a Toad who are friends.  In Frog and Toad Together Toad wakes up feeling pretty overwhelmed, too.

He decides to make a list so he can remember all of the things he has to do that day.
The first thing he writes down is "Wake Up" and he immediately crosses that item off of his list because he has already done that.  Right away Toad is enjoying success and increasing his sense of self efficacy -- his belief that he is capable of having an impact on his life.
Toad adds other items to his list:  Eat Breakfast.  Get Dressed.  Go To Frog's House.  Take A Walk With Frog.  Eat Lunch.
Once Toad has his day written down it seems much more manageable.  His life seems under control.
Unfortunately Toad lets his list take control of his day instead letting it be a tool to guide him through the day.  When the wind blows the list away, Toad can't run after it because running after the list wasn't on the list.  Frog, who has no list, tries to catch it but the wind is too strong.
Unable to decide what next to do, Toad sits down and does nothing.  His good friend Frog sits with him.  Finally when Frog announces, in darkness, that is is time to go home and go to sleep, Toad remembers that "Go To Sleep" was the last thing on his list and so, happily, wishes his friend a good night and goes home to sleep.
It's a good story which makes important points.  Lists are helpful but only as tools.  They don't get to run the show.
I made my list today and crossed things off of it.  Tomorrow I will make another list because this is a good way to not feel overwhelmed.

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