Thursday, 3 July 2014

Escape from The To-Do List

When roughly half your year is spent in wintry cold, it's so easy to take summer for granted. Suddenly everyone is social and there's so much to do. I found myself slipping deeper and deeper into the To-Do List! The joke goes, "There are only two seasons in Canada, winter and construction." It's mostly true, because you can't paint your garage or pour a new sidewalk when it's -40C out. 

Not that long ago I was standing at the dinner table, wrapping several packages and I wondered why I wasn't outside enjoying this particular cool spring day. White and pink blossoms, the rich green grass, the cloudless blue sky - and I was inside, staring wistfully out the windows. It was like an invisible parent was staring down at me and saying, "No playtime until all your chores are done!"

And when life starts looking like a Buzzfeed listicle, you know you need to Escape from the To-Do List. Eventually everything becomes a chore. The To-Do List starts affecting your body and you don't really know why at first:

The To-Do List just becomes one never ending cycle. Inspiration to flee came from a safety ad on the bus:
 Stop          Think          React 

I put my phone away, I took a deep cleansing breath. The heart of my entanglement in the To-Do List was that I could not say no. It was a trap within a trap! I had to climb out of the Yes Pit.

It's not easy to say "no", especially for women. Some people are raised to put others needs before their own. Some people feel that it's incredibly rude to say no. And yet others say yes because it might be a career killer. My time as a temp certainly eroded my ability to say "no" too. It's natural to want to fit in, please people and say "yes" when we mean "no". Maybe the trouble with saying "no" is that we know how to say "yes" easily, but not "no".

"Practice big no's and little no's," I told myself. Yesterday my husband wanted to watch Dr. Who. No thanks! Last week an old co-worker was hopeful that I had some free weekends and evenings to help with her work project. No, my bandwidth has been exceeded lately! Last month I ran into someone from a group I volunteered with in the past - did I want to be webmaster again? Without burning a single bridge, I replied, "No, but I know someone who might be interested!"

The To-Do List shrank as I exercised the power of "no". Maybe it's easier to reframe "no" as "not today" or "not right now" when considering a request. Maybe I'll want to watch Dr. Who tomorrow! Saying "no" is actually saying "yes" to other things - like time with family, myself (remember, I'm an introvert!) and things I really care about. It's not fun giving up weekends for extra work - especially during a short Canadian summer. That's something I really can't say no to at all!