Posts Tagged With: to do lists

Day 1855: What Not to Do Today

I often make To Do Lists, especially for Mondays. However, I’ve never made a list of what not to do before.

Here’s my first ever list of What Not to Do Today:

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  • Ignore the cats.
  • Be a perfectionist.
  • Facilitate a group (because my therapy groups don’t meet on Mondays).

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  • Start collecting miniature chairs (since I already collect watches).
  • Regret the past.
  • Be anxious about the future.
  • Avoid.
  • Assume.
  • Beat myself up about what I’m not doing.
  • Ignore the beauty around me.

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  • Bake a cake like that.
  • Be late for work.
  • Specifically ask for comments about what would be on your “What Not To Do Today” list.
  • Forget to thank all who helped me create this “What Not To Do Today” post and — of course! — YOU.

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 666: Jazz

Anybody who reads my blog probably knows that

I

Love

Jazz.

I’ve loved jazz since the first time I heard Count Basie play on a TV show, when I was very young. (I can’t find that appearance on YouTube, but I found some other Count Basie TV appearances from the 1960’s, here, here, and here.)

When I was in high school, I spent two summers studying jazz piano at Berklee School of Music (now Berklee College of Music).

Not to be judgmental, but I really wasn’t that great at playing jazz piano. Believe me, I’m not being falsely modest here. I’ve simply never had

  • the courage,
  • the technique,
  • the “chops” (as jazz players say)
  • the patience,
  • the stick-to-it-ness,
  • the talent, or
  • the natural ability

…. to improvise on any musical instrument. And improvisation is what makes jazz jazz.

In case you don’t know what improvisation is: in jazz, the musicians  play a tune the way it was written and then they take turns improvising — making up new music within the established chord structure of that song.

So jazz is a wonderful balance of

  • structure and play,
  • dependence and independence,
  • teamwork and individuality.

I never get tired of witnessing great improvisers. I’ve included a lot of them in my blog posts. If you improvise a search through my posts, right now, I’m sure you’ll find some, easily enough.

Actually, I’m going to be kinder than that, right now. Rather than sending you off on a wild-goose chase through my posts looking for examples of good improvisers, I shall take this opportunity to post a jazz tune I love, with two of my favorite improvisers — Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays:

Many times before, in this blogging journey of mine, I have considered posting a YouTube link to “Daulton Lee” (written by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, from the soundtrack of movie The Falcon and the Snowman). I’ve often wondered — in the past year and a half — how I could improvise sharing with you that wonderful  and (for me) mood-improving music, but it never seemed to fit any other topic, well enough. It’s not like I’ve written about Daultons or Lees or Falcons or Snowmen.

Snowmen. Hmmmm. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve shown photos of snowmen here in the past 22 months (but who’s counting?) since I started blogging.

Oh, well. I guess I can’t be on top of EVERY opportunity to do things I’d like to do.

There’s no time like the present, however! Today, the topic is jazz and I can pretty much post whatever I want!

I’m actually going to return to the past, just for a moment, as I explain to you another reason why I haven’t posted “Daulton Lee” before.  YouTube doesn’t have my favorite kind of jazz video for “Daulton Lee” — that is, a live version with good quality sound.  But the studio version of “Daulton Lee” is good enough, right now.

And I’ve now posted “Daulton Lee!” Another item to remove from my Blogging To-Do List. That’s always a relief.

I will share this with you, though, at this point. I’m not sure “Daulton Lee” is such a great example of jazz improvisation, as I defined it earlier in this post.

Let’s see if there’s another favorite tune I love, that I know I haven’t shared with you before.

I know!  I’ve never included, in any blog post, “Minuano” by the Pat Metheny group. Why?  Same reason as with “Daulton Lee.”  The title doesn’t naturally lend itself to any topic I might tackle here.

Is that YouTube video of the album version of “Minuano” a perfect example of jazz improvisation?  Probably not, but it’s a great nine minutes of music. And here’s a live version I love (even though it doesn’t include the full tune):

Wow!  I’ve really gotten a lot off my plate here today, regarding my favorite music.

Don’t you think it’s about time I explain why I’m writing about jazz today, of all days?

I’m still thinking about my presentation, two days ago, when I spoke about the Koplow Method of group therapy to an audience of other therapists.

As my presentation was ending on Sunday, several people said some kind and complimentary things about the way I do groups, including this:

I love the way you create this clear structure which allows people the safety to play.  It’s like … jazz.

Music to my ears!  I will forever be grateful to that person for improvising, in the moment, one of the best compliments ever.

Telling you that story also lets me segue into this classic YouTube video that my 16-year-old son, Aaron, and I happened to watch last night.

Note: That appearance of the Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s is all about somebody really, really, really  wanting to improvise, despite the judgment of others.

Now, how I shall improvise on my well-established blog structure, of showing you photos I’ve taken recently, usually near the end of the post?

Here are some photos I took yesterday, when I was improvising on a visual theme I had chosen for my walk away from work — “Green.”

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Pretty jazzy, huh?

Gotta run to work, where I get to improvise, as best I can.

Thanks to Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Jim Henson, and all the other creative masters who helped me write this post today. And — in yet another variation on a theme I’ve included in almost every post I’ve ever written  — thanks to all you jazzy people out there, for visiting here today!

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 203: Will

The topic for today is the word “will.”

I had many choices from the Google Buffet of Definitions, this morning. I chose the following, from the Merriam Webster site:

will   noun     \ˈwil\

1. : desire, wish: as

a : disposition, inclination <where there’s a will there’s a way>

b : appetite, passion

c : choice, determination

2

a : something desired; especially : a choice or determination of one having authority or power

b (1) archaic : request, command (2) [from the phrase our will is which introduces it] : the part of a summons expressing a royal command

3 : the act, process, or experience of willing : volition
4

a : mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending

b : a disposition to act according to principles or ends

c : the collective desire of a group <the will of the people>

5 : the power of control over one’s own actions or emotions <a man of iron will>

6: a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death; especially : a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death

— at will
: as one wishes : as or when it pleases or suits oneself

A few random thoughts, about all that (accompanied by my friend, Google Images):

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In a previous (personal favorite) post here,  I wrote about To Do Lists.

Something that’s been on my To Do List, for a very long time?

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That kind of will.

Also, on my To Do List, for a shorter time, a different kind of will:

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A Living Will (which is not included in the Merriam Webster definitions) is defined as

A document in which the signer states his or her wishes regarding medical treatment, especially treatment that sustains or prolongs life by extraordinary means, for use if the signer becomes mentally incompetent or unable to communicate.

Hmmmm. I wonder why I’ve been avoiding completing both of those kinds of wills — The Last Will and Testament and The Living Will.

I repeat, hmmmmm.

Should I label myself “A Procrastinator?”  Would that help?

Nah.

Should I ask you, readers, if you might resist taking care of those kinds of wills?  Should I ask if you’ve encountered other people, in your life,  who have resisted taking care of those sorts of things, and the effect that has had on you?

Sure! I love asking questions like that.  Feel free to answer.

But ultimately, what would give me the will to just get those things done?

I can tell you three things that will help me take an achievable step, on Day 202, of This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally:

  1. Having just attended a 43rd year high school reunion.
  2. Identifying that achievable next step (calling a lawyer, whom I’ve identified, also).
  3. Remembering a “cliche” that my mother used to say a lot:

Where there’s a will there’s a way

(quoted in definition #1a, above).

That concludes today’s blog post, everybody.  Thanks for having the will to read, wherever you are.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Day 69: To Do Lists (How NOT to get overwhelmed)

So!   I’ve been learning a lot lately about managing tasks and ideas, almost as quickly as this guy:

gary-lockwood

(For previous references to this Star Trek episode in this blog, see here and here.)

Here are some things I’ve been learning (and re-learning) about getting things done, without feeling overwhelmed.  (By the way, if you feel overwhelmed by the length of this list — or by all the links  in this post —  see #1, below.)

# 1. You don’t have to do everything immediately.

Often, you don’t even have to do anything immediately.

When I think of something I have to do, sometimes I act immediately for fear that I’ll forget it or I won’t do it.  And sometimes that immediate action is not only unnecessary, it’s not advisable.  (For example, lately I have been fighting the urge to record an idea or make a phone call on my cell phone while I’m driving.)

Have faith that if an idea is important, it will re-occur to you in the future. When you think of a task you need to do, even if it feels urgent, take a breath and allow yourself to ask a few questions about it — How urgent is this, really?  How should I prioritize it? When might I have time to do it well enough?

In general, have faith in your process. Try  telling yourself “I have all the time I need” (even if you don’t really believe it).

# 2. It can help to write things down.

To Do Lists for tasks and lists of ideas can be very helpful, especially for actions or ideas that (1) you can’t act on it on the moment or (2) you are likely to forget.

I have mixed feelings about To Do Lists.  They can help me remember things, but I’m concerned they might become Dreaded Lists of Shoulds and Proof To The Universe about What I’m Not Doing.

Also, I might lose a To Do List, and then spend precious time looking for the friggin’ thing.

However, I do have a big notebook at work where I write down my Really Important Things To Do, and that seems to work.  I’ve been trying to use my various electronic devices, too, as additional Ticklers, Reminders,  Updates, Notifications, etc. etc.  but haven’t quite mastered those options yet.

A Digression (and short Temper Tantrum) about Tasks and  Technology

There are SO many choices of how my cell phone, my lap top, and work computer can  remind me about stuff!!  Eeeek! That gets  overwhelming.  It’s like technology is getting better at helping us keep track of things at the same exact pace that technology is making us need to keep track of more things.

End of Digression

#3.  If there is an idea or a task that you CAN act on in the moment, consider doing it in the moment.

This may sound contradictory with #1 above, but there you go.

Letting go of shoulds and the anxiety about “I have to do this NOW!” can help you act in the here and now (and procrastinate less).

Here are some thoughts that can make it difficult to act in the moment:

  • This is important, so I have to do it well (or perfectly).
  • I don’t have enough time!! (Hint: there’s never enough time for perfection.)
  • There’s a chance for failure here, and that would make me feel worse.

To deal with paralyzing perfectionism, fears of failure, and too-much-to-do,  practice giving  yourself some slack.   Try doing something  that’s Good Enough, within a short period of time.  Making some progress will help (and you can always go back to it later).

#4.  Set limits with other people.

If other people are involved in the tasks you need to do,  it’s very helpful to set their expectations.  This can do wonders in reducing future anxiety — it’s like an anti-anxiety inoculation!

Here’s how it works.  When somebody is making a request of you (verbally or implied), respond with some version of this:

I can do this. I cannot do that.

An expanded version  of the above is:

I can do these things  (by this time).  I cannot do these things (unless I get more resources). 

You might worry that the person you are setting limits with will take offense at that.  If you are clear, direct, and specific, they will probably appreciate knowing this information.  And,  they will be more likely to leave you alone while you are getting things done!

You might not set limits or manage expectations perfectly. You might  promise something initially which you can’t meet. (I’m getting better at setting limits, but I tend to over-promise and under-estimate the time I need to do something.) If you over-promise or under-estimate,  let  the other person know as soon as possible,  thus reducing your future anxiety and guilt, as well their potential pissed-off-ed-ness. 

#5. Allow yourself the room to be “not perfect.”

You may think you need to be perfect, but nobody else expects that from you. (If somebody does expect perfectionism from others, they will be disappointed. If they don’t learn from that disappointment, they will be disappointed — and ineffective at dealing with people — their whole lives.)

You  don’t  have to get things right the first time — whether it’s managing expectations, writing, or anything else. You can recover from most “mistakes.”

Do you believe that?

Try believing it, and see what happens.

#6. Set limits with yourself.  

Give yourself a time limit to work on something. Limit the number of tasks you are going to try to accomplish.  

For example, I find it helps me to set a time limit on how long I spend writing my blog posts during the week days, and also limit myself to one blog post per day.

#7. Take care of yourself.

If you feel overwhelmed, take a break. Consider the possibility that you don’t HAVE to do anything right now. (I wrote a long post about that, here.)

If you are physically uncomfortable, change your position or adjust the heat.

If you need food, get yourself some (as soon as you can).

If you need sleep, get yourself some (as soon as you can).

#8.  Prioritize.

Recognize that you might have too much to do, and  choose one task to do next.

Let go of guilt and judgment about what you’re not doing. (I wrote more about that, here.)  

Notice and compensate for distorted priorities.

(Here’s some typical distorting prioritizing from me, which I’m doing less these days:

I need to do this NOW, because if I don’t, this person will be ANGRY, and I’m afraid of that person or I’m afraid I will lose that person.)

Where I work, everybody has too much to do, and that seems to be getting worse as time goes on.  People are coming up with creative ways to deal with this.

A  nurse I really like came into my office the other day to share how she manages having too much to do, without becoming overwhelmed.

One of the things she told me was, “I ask myself,  ‘Which is the task and which is the interruption?’  If I  can’t tell which is which, that means I’m overwhelmed. Then, I choose one and proceed with that one. And …. I cannot  choose incorrectly.”

I thought that was great.

#9. Recognize that there are some tasks you just don’t want to do.  

Allow yourself to have some sort of tantrum about that, if that would help.

 (I DON’T WANT TO WORK ON MY TAXES TODAY!!!!!! It’s not fair!!!)

(Better.)

Then, break that task into small steps and take the next one.

(First, I have to locate my documents. How about one document?  That seems do-able)

Consider giving yourself a reward for doing a task you don’t want to do. 

(I’m going to see the movie “Argo” at 4:30!!)

Also, try to reduce the pain of the actual process.

(Somebody at a group last week suggested working on taxes while listening to music you really love. I’ll listen to music on my headphones while looking for these friggin’ documents.)

Let go of cognitive distortions and the resulting guilt or shame about this:

( What’s the matter with me?  This shouldn’t be so hard!  I’m such a weird-o about doing taxes. Other people don’t have this problem. I probably shouldn’t even be writing about this in the blog. People are going to think I’m strange!  There is NO reason why I haven’t been able to get to this before today!)

(Hmmm. Actually, all of those statements above are false.)

(Better.)

#10.  Figure out short cuts and save them, for future easy access and use.  

Figure out short cuts that work for you, and try to make these short cuts easy- to-access, especially when you’re in the midst of being overwhelmed.

I’ve been trying to figure out short cuts at work lately, because I have way too much to do. (Like everybody else there.)  For example, I’ve been making templates of the notes I need to write,  giving myself prompts and choices for information I need to include. 

I’ve been trying to figure out short-cuts here, too, so I can blog more quickly and efficiently. For example, I looked for a short-cut, yesterday, for inserting a copyright symbol at the end of a blog post.

It’s even simpler than I expected. You can simply type a copyright symbol. On a Mac, it’s Option + G. 

#11. Let go of judgment about how you’re doing.

Tell yourself “I’m doing the best I can” in managing tasks and ideas (whether or not you believe it). Cut yourself some slack, especially if you’re doing something new (or something that feels new, because you haven’t done it enough times or recently enough to feel practiced).

#12. Be aware of your strengths and limits.  

Use your strengths whenever you can, and let go of judgment about your limits.

#13. Ask for help, especially regarding your limits.

This may be hard to do, but try this, please.

#14.  If  you are stuck, choose something easier to try.

If you are having trouble getting things done, choose one task that seems the most do-able in the moment.

#15. Consider editing your list. 

Change priorities and even delete things that just aren’t that important to get done.  Consider making things simpler.

#16. Pad your list, to give yourself a sense of accomplishment.  

Put things on your list that you’ve already started. Add  routine tasks. This will give you  a sense of accomplishment when you cross them off..

#17. Notice your resistance, letting go of judgment.

If you’re resisting doing something, assume that — on some level — that resistance makes sense. See if you can figure that out.  Even if you can’t, try to let go of judgment about the resistance.

Also resistance may mean that you don’t yet have what you need (data, support, completing something else first) in order to continue with your task.

Wow!  That list included a LOT of what I know, about a lot of things.

I wonder if there’s anything I have left to tell you  for the rest of this year?

Hmmm. Maybe I should do a To Do List about writing future blog posts.

  1. Start a list of ideas for future blog posts.  (Pssst!  I’ve already done that!)
  2. Keep adding to that list.
  3. Remember that I don’t have to come up with completely new topics.  I can keep writing about similar topics, in different ways (hence role-modeling the importance of “practice, practice, practice”).
  4. Consider spending the rest of the year posting more scenes from that Star Trek episode with Gary Lockwood.

That’s a good enough list, for now.

Thanks for reading.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

(Note:  I just want to let my  regular readers know that my test results came back and I do NOT have endocarditis. Yay!)

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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