These are the times when I tend to find myself reaching for a pen and paper and announcing:
I need a list!
Writing things down seems to calm my frenzied brain slightly. Firstly, it is just inherently soothing writing thing down. Secondly, it makes me feel as if I've actually begun on each of the tasks - just writing them has made them a little bit more concrete. Thirdly, it calms the bit of my brain that's trying to make sure I remember them all and don't miss important deadlines - if they're written down, they can't be forgotten.
All well and good - and generally very useful.
There is a downside to lists, and it's that I tend to ADD TOO MANY THINGS.
A list generally starts quite modest and useful. For example:
1. Put bins out
2. Buy milk
3. Phone school re bus timetable
4. Email agent about rewrite
But it has a tendency to rapidly get out of hand, as more and more Useful and Important Things occur to me. Thus:
5. Write 'Comment is Free' article on author event fees and send to Guardian
6. Think about new website design ideas
7. Read teetering pile of books by bed
And then it just gets worse:
8. Put contents of wardrobe on ebay and buy proper clothes
9. Draft new book
10. Paint and decorate entire house
Not Achieving The Things On My List can rapidly become another source of stress, entirely negating the good stuff about having organised a list.
When this happens, I have found a good strategy is not to eschew lists altogether, but to change the kind of list I write. A very good antidote to the failure to keep up with the 'To Do' list is to have a 'Done' list.
Done lists are brilliant. By definition, everything on them has been achieved already. You can in fact award yourself an instant Well Done Rosette the minute you finish writing them.
The best thing about 'Done' lists though, is that they are the very opposite of 'To Do' lists. The more you sit there, the more you think of things you have achieved, and the more concrete and bounded those things become. At the tail end of a 'Done' list I mght find myself writing things like:
22. Brushed my hair this morning
23. Had a really nice piece of toast for breakfast
24. Rescued a spider from the bath
Equally, I can sometimes find some quite big and important things ending up on my 'Done' list, things I'd never dream of putting on a 'To Do' list but which perhaps explain why I don't always get the 'To Do' list, well, Done. Things like:
25. Talked to (daughter) about her worries re school
26. Made her some hot chocolate and watched Poldark together
Sometimes a 'Done' list can overlap slightly with another useful exercise that helps when I am feeling overwhelmed, which is a kind of version of 'count your blessings' and involves patting myself gently on the back for the many things I have actually achieved over the last few years. It's easy to forget them, and only look forward to the things I haven't managed to do!
So, having knocked off 'Write ABBA blog', I am now moving on to the next item on today's deliberately modest list, which is 'Have a nice cup of tea'...
Cecilia Busby writes humorous fantasy adventures for ages 7-12 as C.J. Busby. Her latest book, The Amber Crown, was published last year by Templar.
"Great fun - made me chortle!" (Diana Wynne Jones on Frogspell)
"A rift-hoping romp with great wit, charm and pace" (Frances Hardinge on Deep Amber)