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The endless to-do list

It’s dawned on me recently that my life is nothing but an endless to-do list that will never be completed. The first thought in my mind as I wake up in the morning is a list of everything that I want to complete before the day is over. I’ve become so accustomed to writing a to-do list, that I don’t know how to live my life without one.

I tick off something when I complete it and then I swiftly move onto the next thing I need to do. I spend the entire day hoping that I have enough time to complete everything on the list but when I fail (and I often do), I am consumed with guilt that I didn’t manage to do everything. I end up feeling useless and disappointed by my efforts, then add whatever I didn’t achieve on my list, to the long list for the next day.

To-do lists are great for organising your thoughts, making sure you stick to deadlines and when you complete something you feel accomplished. However, there are negative sides to living your life like an endless to-do list. After a while you start to feel the pressure of trying to achieve too much and come to the sad realisation that it is you who is causing it.

I’m highly ambitious and always have been, I’ve always wanted success and spend a lot of my time dreaming and working hard to get to where I want to be. I know now that I sometimes do too much. This unnecessary pressure that I put on myself is causing me stress and it’s only going to make me unhappy if I carry on this way.

I can get very restless when I have nothing to do. I need mental stimulation to keep me busy. I have my lazy pyjama days when I make my way through the FRIENDS box-set and stuff my face with ice cream, but I probably don’t do it enough. I sometimes forget to give my mind a rest and just be a different me for a while, not the crazy-career-driven-writing-obsessed version of myself that I tend to be most of the time. I love what I do. I live to write but sometimes when I give myself too much to do and set too many deadlines for myself, the fun element of writing disappears and it starts to feel like a chore.

I currently have a part-time freelance writing position, that’s my first priority on my list because I get paid to do it. Then I write for this online magazine and another one. I try my best to write as frequently as possible but sometimes I have nothing to say and I get frustrated by my lack of ideas. I have also started my own magazine, it’s in the early stages but my dreamy eyes are already thinking too far forward to everything that it could be, when I should really just be focusing on building a following on the blog and slowly working my way towards creating the first issue.

If that wasn’t enough to bombard myself with, I’ve also taken up a volunteer position. I am volunteering at a hostel near my house and I’m trying (emphasis on the trying) to encourage the residents to use Creative Writing and Drama to express themselves. It isn’t going as smoothly as I first hoped but I’m not a quitter, I guess I’ll just see what happens. I’m also volunteering at The Manchester Literature Festival, but fortunately this doesn’t take up too much of my time. I might only be required for four days between now and November, I get to go to Literary events and meet some authors and I even get a free t-shirt! So it’s definitely worth doing.

One more thing I have now added to my long and endless to-do list is an adult night class at my local high school on a Tuesday night. For five weeks the author Philippa Faulks will talk about writing to publish, the different routes to take, preparing a manuscript and writing a synopsis – all the things I need to know if I EVER decide to finish my novel (I’m still stuck at 4,000 words and it’s been that way for weeks now).

It seems like everything has happened at once. For months I moaned about having nothing going in my life and I was pulling my hair out at the thought of carrying on with the perpetual boredom of being unemployed and unhappy. Now I have so many projects going on that I don’t know which one to do first. I have constant lists forming in my head and although it’s a great way to stay focussed and get things done, I’m afraid that one day soon I will run out of steam.

Maybe I take on too much but the only person that can fix it is me. Can I pry myself away from my projects long enough to see what the stress is doing and can do to me if I carry on this way? Hopefully. There’s keeping myself busy and then there’s doing too much and I don’t really know where to draw the line.

I wish I had more of a laid back approach to my career but if I did then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I sometimes feel like there is a giant clock ticking inside my head. I am conscious that if I want to do something, I need to do it now because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. I don’t want to regret not taking amazing opportunities that come my way.

I want to have an amazing career before I start thinking about having a family. I want to do something for myself and I’m not ashamed of that and shouldn’t be. However, I do know that I need to draw the line in the sand sometimes and tell myself to stop typing, turn off my brain and just enjoy life because even though my career is important to me, I can name quite a few more things that mean so much more.

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