There was a time, before, when I didn’t need lists. Stuff needed to be done so I did stuff. It was that simple. Now I get overwhelmed so easily. I forget to do things or get halfway through and just stop because there’s too much to do. But I’ve found a way to help. I wouldn’t be writing this post except I know I’m not the only one in this situation. The solution I’ve found is to micromanage and make lists.
When I was in grade school and when Colin was as well, the teachers set up something called “chunking”. That’s taking a big task and breaking it into little tasks. Let’s take a shower for example, because I’m pretty sure that almost everyone with a mental illness struggles with this. Don’t write down “have shower” if you know you’re going to really struggle. Write down get undressed, put clothes in hamper, turn on shower, shampoo hair, rinse, condition hair, shave legs and pits (optional), wash body, rinse hair and body, turn off shower, dry off, get dressed. It’s a lot of stuff but it gives you a chance to work through every step so you’re not stuck just conditioning and forgetting to wash or missing shaving one leg.
As you can see from my list above, I’ve done some minor chunking. Laundry has three mentions because all three steps are separate and, as you can also see, the chore chart is almost done. All that’s left is dinner, which is still cooking as it’s only 3:30pm. I even got my 10 thousand steps in on the Oshawa Creek Trail and doesn’t that leave a sense of accomplishment.
If I’d been left to my own devices, without a list today, I don’t think I’d have got nearly as much done. One thing chunking and writing a list does is help you maximize your time. For example, I had laundry to wash today. It takes an hour and 38 minutes but in reality I’m only spending 5 to 10 minutes down there total. So my lunch was eaten while the laundry was in the washer and I made the biscuits while my laundry was in the dryer. By the time it finished, I’d not only made the biscuits but washed the dishes and taste tested two biscuits (the second just to be sure of course). My two heart shaped biscuits are in the fridge, ready to go for tomorrow, and my favourite tea cup is tucked safely away in one of my favourite bags, also for tomorrow (we’re having tea and biscuits).
Making a list gives you some accountability. It’s easier to put something off until tomorrow when it’s not staring you in the face. Also, pro tip, you will not want to do that thing tomorrow either. It’s better to get it over with unless you’re totally out of spoons. No one wakes up with a smile on their face and says, “Yay! I can’t wait to scrub the toilet today!”
The other side of micromanaging is don’t add too many things to your list. Just because they’re in smaller chunks doesn’t magically give you more energy. Listen to your inner voice, or in my case, the scribble in my stomach, that says “whoa there, I’m going to be crying in a fetal position halfway through dealing with this list”. I don’t care what your Mom, your uncle, or your friend Sarah can do in a day. Unless they’re coming over and doing this for you, plan for your limits. I could throw scrubbing the bathroom onto my list today no problem. Would I have the energy to do it? Hell no.
So try taking your life in baby steps. It might seem overly simplistic when you first start but when you’ve got a day that requires a lot of spoons it can be a real lifesaver!