by Johna Hansen, LCSW
While preparing to work on certain projects around my home over the weekend, I had an extremely long to-do list in my mind: do the laundry, do the dishes, make bread, pick up groceries, paint a room, clean the kitchen, etc. I mean there were like 1000 things (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little) on my mental list for just one day. I believed I must get all 1000 things done that day which made me feel angry because there was a possibility that I wouldn’t finish everything.
Then, I remembered what I learned from a book entitled, “Personal Kanban”: if I can visualize my work and limit my work in progress, I am able to get more work done. Making my list visual would help me better evaluate what thoughts, feelings, and beliefs were holding me back from completing certain tasks. So, I wrote “to do”, “doing”, and “done” on three different post-it notes and began creating a post it note list on my kitchen cupboards. Once I had a list in front of me, I was able to see everything I needed to do. At that point I realized that although I preferred to accomplish everything in one day, the expectation that I must finish every task was not realistic. I began feeling disappointed rather than overcome by anger.
Additionally, while looking at the post it notes, I was able to make sure I didn’t have too many in the “doing” column and that I put some in the “done” column before starting any new tasks. This way I was able to confront what was holding me back from finishing a task. For instance, when I saw that “wash laundry” was in the “doing” column and “put laundry away” was in the “to do” column, I knew that I couldn’t put the laundry away until I washed it. When I looked at the “wash laundry” post-it, I thought it might not be possible for me to fit all of my laundry in one cycle. I felt anxious because I believed that it would be awful if I couldn’t finish all of the laundry at once. However, I knew this was a task I wanted to put in the “done” column so I reminded myself that it wouldn’t kill me to do laundry in increments, if necessary. Then, I only felt a small amount of concern and I grabbed the laundry and made my way down to the laundry room.
The next time you have a long “to do” list and you’re having a hard time completing tasks, consider making a post it note list and addressing the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are keeping you from getting those tasks from the “doing” column to the “done” column.
Benson, J. & Berry, T.D. (2011). Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life. Seattle, WA: Modus Cooperandi Press.