Setting Impossible Expectations Only Leads to Failure

Iv’e been thinking a lot about the idea of setting impossible expectations today and how so often we set ourselves up for such failure. I am a huge fan of “to-do” lists. I make list after list after list of things that need to get done. My mind is so over-crowded with everything that I need to remember, that things just get squeezed out if I don’t write them down. So nearly every day, I sit down and make a list. It could be a grocery list, a list of projects I need to get done, a list of things that need cleaned up, a list of dinners I want to make, a list of items that needed to be listed on Ebay, a list of emails and phone calls that need to be made, and they all fall under the ever towering category of “TO DO”. But what so often happens is that my list starts off with a few reasonable things, and then grows into this monstrosity of things that I could not possible get done even if I had no other responsibilities in my life.

So to recap, this is typically how my thought process goes. Sometime on Sunday afternoon,  I start out with a glimmer of hope that looks something like this:

  •      “hmmm, I need to get X done, or I need to write Y down so I don’t forget. This is really going to make my life better to get these things               accomplished. I’m going to hit Monday hard and get some of this stuff done”
  •     “let me sit down here with my idea book, and my nice felt tip pen and start making a list of things that need to get done this week.” I start writing and thinking and writing and the thoughts are coming quicker then I can write them down on paper.
  •      Monday rolls around and I’ve made my list so incredibly big that I have no hopes of being able to do anything but a few things on the list. Life and work, and kids, and family and house happens, and my list becomes a distant bunch of scribble that sounded like a good idea at the time.
  •      I make my way to bed on Monday night and think back on the day, and the list and realize what a failure the day was because I only got to cross off 2.5 things on the list.
  • I feel sad, depressed, like a failure and wonder why I cant seem to get it together
  • Tuesday: what list?

I hope if you are reading this, that you have better systems in place then i do, but like so many of us, I’m a work in progress. I try to find out what works for me, and what doesn’t work. Telling yourself that you are a failure, DOES NOT WORK! Making massive lists, only sets me up for unreasonable expectations and causes me to fail when I cant cross the items off.

Allow me to tell you a story. 😊
A few weeks ago, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I was sitting on the porch watching the kids play, making lists in my idea book and thinking about the week ahead. My daughter asked me to come over and push her on the swings. I closed up my book and tucked it under my arm as I walked over to the swing set. I placed my dear precious book on the platform of the slide and proceeded to push the children on the swings for quite awhile as we enjoyed the warm breezy air and smells of crunchy leaves in the air. In one quick second, she fell off a high swing and landed hard on her back, knocking the wind out of her. I sat on the ground right there and held her until she stopped crying and then picked her up and carried her to the house and shut the door. My mind was so focused on her and what happened in the moment, that I didn’t realize I had left my precious ideas outside. In fact I went all night and didn’t realize it until about 4 in the morning when i jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to see that it had been raining pretty hard for several hours. I immediately felt a panic wash over me, knowing that my dear friend was sitting out there in the rain. I could do nothing but wait until morning and assess the damage. I reasoned with myself that it was on the covered platform and surely stayed dry enough to be minimally damaged. When dawn broke and the sun started rising, I went out to the swing set and found my journal.
It was worse then I thought. When I got to work, I set it in front of a space heater for hours trying to get it dry enough to be able to read the pages. Most of it is pretty unrecognizable. And now that it’s been about a month since that happened, my journal has an awful moldy stench to it, that I just cant open it anymore. I’m trying to convert some of the important notes into my new journal.

But after that happened, it really forced me to realize that all of those lists that I held so dear in that book, really didn’t make or break my day. Being able to hold my daughter until she stopped crying was more important, and always will be.

I will always be a list maker. It’s just who I am, I need to do it. Sometimes I put things I’ve already done on a list just so I can get the satisfaction of crossing it off. I know, sick. 😊 But now, I have a new philosophy when it comes to making lists. I make sure to get all of the things on my lists that need to get accomplished, whether its blog posts, Ebay listings, grocery items, phone calls or emails. Those items are still important, and will always be something that I need to strive to continue with doing and remembering. But my goals are different. Now instead of looking down the barrel at a list of 57 things, I select 3-4 things off my lists that I need to accomplish each day. I still have my master list, but I choose what is a priority on that list and focus on 2-3 things at a time (or day). It has made a WORLD of difference in my attitude and my feeling of accomplishment each night when I lay down. When you’re finding the balance between work and home, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to be super-woman. Your day may look different then mine, depending on what your life is and we all wear so many hats each day.  For me, its a combination of any of the following each and every day:

  • work outside the home as an interior designer
  • work from the home as an interior designer
  • kids, school, field trips
  • laundry, cleaning, organizing
  • wife, mother, daughter, daughter in law, sister
  • Ebay, blogging, e-commerce
  • cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping

Probably one of the best things that happened, was my lists getting unintentionally ruined, forcing me to stop and take a look at what was going wrong. Nothing has changed as far as setting major goals for myself. I’m still only getting 2.5 things on the list done. But approaching it with a different mindset has been a real game changer.  I don’t want to feel like a failure, I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something each day. Implementing the 3-4 item rule for each day is really working for me. I am slowly getting through things, and I’m not setting MYSELF up for failure. I’m sure this will change over time for me as things get easier and the children get a little more independent, but for now its working. Things to consider….
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