List Limitations

DefeatI love lists.

Love, love, love them. I do have some digital lists, but many are still the old fashioned paper-and-pen variety. They decorate my kitchen counter and cupboards, my dashboard, and my desk. (Can I call this a decorating scheme?) I’ll buy cute pads of paper and always try to have an array of pens to choose from.

Today I felt defeated as I perused my list. I even wrote a new one to clean it up and make it all pretty-like. (Didn’t help.) It was overwhelming to see how much must be accomplished in the next 48 hours… on a weekend, no less. My reason for writing lists isn’t even all that cheerful: I know I can’t remember what needs doing! 

I recently saw this quote about optimism that made me giggle, partly because I’m married to an engineer:

“An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.” — Unknown

As a half-empty-er, I feel I have too little water (time) for my glass (list). To apply the engineer’s logic to my list dilemma, the engineer would say that my list is simply too large for the hours. And s/he might just be right. Even though I love lists (for their deceptive feeling of control), they may be a hindrance to cultivating a more optimistic perspective. There’s some wisdom in discerning whether we’re tackling more tasks than God has truly appointed to us. So, here’s a strategy I’m going to try (in the form of a list… heh, heh.):

  1. Pray. Ask God to order my priorities and acknowledge that He’s given me just 24 hours in each day.
  2. Approximate the number of hours I have available for any tasks in any given period of time (allowing for other daily responsibilities and rest/play).
  3. In listing necessary tasks to accomplish, predict a reasonable amount of time complete each one.
  4. Stop the list when the total nears, or equals, the number of hours available in #2 (and before it exceeds it).
  5. Start an additional list of what I have completed, as it’s completed. Instead of just crossing items off the To Do list, this will let me see success visually, bringing less feeling of defeat (pessimism) and more feeling of victory (optimism).
  6. Items that remain undone (and unlisted!) will be prayerfully entrusted to God for their demands to be met (and for me to be reminded of, or liberated from, them).

I am mindful, writing this, that the principle of Sabbath is not that we rest when our work is done, but that in resting we trust God to supply our need.  It’s an expression of faith. May it be so in my newly-limited lists as well.

[Tweet “Lists needn’t become documentation of pessimistic defeat. Rethinking the list with the Sabbath principle. #thinkonthesethings #write31days”]

Pessimist: There is not enough time to do all I must do. I will fail at completing it all. I’ll never get ahead of this.
Optimist: Though much may remain to be done, look at all I was able to do today. I will entrust the rest to God.

Care to join me? Would love to hear your tips and ideas, or your feedback from trying this!

Think on these thingsThis post is part of a 31 day series entitled “Think on these things: Learning optimism.” For a full catalog of all the posts, visit the first page in the series by clicking here.

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I’m a list maker too! However being the optimistic person I am I’m ok if everything doesn’t get done right away. I know I will get them done as they need be. But there are also times that the lists can drive me crazy because I’m not getting them done as should be. Earlier I said I can be either pessimistic or optimistic and you asked if it depends on the situation. And the more I think about it, yep that’s exactly right.

    • Kirsten Holmberg on October 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

      You seem to know yourself pretty well, Tara!

      • Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

        I think that I do but it’s taken me a long time to get there!

  2. Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I’m a list maker too! However being the optimistic person I am I’m ok if everything doesn’t get done right away. I know I will get them done as they need be. But there are also times that the lists can drive me crazy because I’m not getting them done as should be. Earlier I said I can be either pessimistic or optimistic and you asked if it depends on the situation. And the more I think about it, yep that’s exactly right.

    • Kirsten Holmberg on October 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

      You seem to know yourself pretty well, Tara!

      • Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

        I think that I do but it’s taken me a long time to get there!

  3. Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I’m a list maker too! However being the optimistic person I am I’m ok if everything doesn’t get done right away. I know I will get them done as they need be. But there are also times that the lists can drive me crazy because I’m not getting them done as should be. Earlier I said I can be either pessimistic or optimistic and you asked if it depends on the situation. And the more I think about it, yep that’s exactly right.

    • Kirsten Holmberg on October 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

      You seem to know yourself pretty well, Tara!

      • Tara Ulrich on October 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

        I think that I do but it’s taken me a long time to get there!

  4. Jenni on October 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I could definitely “hear” you in this post, Kirsten. 🙂 As a fellow list-maker, I can relate to this post. I often add accomplished items to my original list; I also change the heading… If I don’t finish it “Monday,” I rename the list “Tuesday.” Pretty lists and quality pens are definitely a requirement. 🙂 No spiritual response from me… I just resonated with this one!

  5. Jenni on October 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I could definitely “hear” you in this post, Kirsten. 🙂 As a fellow list-maker, I can relate to this post. I often add accomplished items to my original list; I also change the heading… If I don’t finish it “Monday,” I rename the list “Tuesday.” Pretty lists and quality pens are definitely a requirement. 🙂 No spiritual response from me… I just resonated with this one!

  6. Jenni on October 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I could definitely “hear” you in this post, Kirsten. 🙂 As a fellow list-maker, I can relate to this post. I often add accomplished items to my original list; I also change the heading… If I don’t finish it “Monday,” I rename the list “Tuesday.” Pretty lists and quality pens are definitely a requirement. 🙂 No spiritual response from me… I just resonated with this one!

  7. Jenni on October 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I could definitely “hear” you in this post, Kirsten. 🙂 As a fellow list-maker, I can relate to this post. I often add accomplished items to my original list; I also change the heading… If I don’t finish it “Monday,” I rename the list “Tuesday.” Pretty lists and quality pens are definitely a requirement. 🙂 No spiritual response from me… I just resonated with this one!

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