Avoiding insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In case you couldn’t tell from the previous two posts, I am feeling a little frustrated about what I didn’t accomplish last year. If I don’t manage to cross off some of my goals for the house this year, I think I will start to feel a little insane–order in my environment means order in my mind for me.

Fortunately, I have all of you being super supportive and offering lots of great suggestions about how I can do a better job of accomplishing my plans. Thank you all so, so much for all of the encouragement and advice you’ve offered this week. It really means a lot to me to go back to all of your comments and to know you’re all out there reading along and cheering me on.

To avoid repeating the insanity of last year, I’ve decided that I need to do more than just post about my goals. Like many of you advised, I need to have a bit of a plan for how I’m actually going to do some of them. And notice I said some of them. I am trying to be realistic and give myself a bit of a break. I don’t have to do everything. But I need to do something to feel better about my house and myself.

2014 calendar

An aside: My grandmother always had calendars from the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, and now I order one every year too. They’re filled with beautiful artwork, and it’s a great cause to support.

A few months ago I found Ruth’s 10 Tips for Getting More Done Every Single Day. I really liked her advice for setting priorities, using a timer and regrouping. But it was her tip about setting weekly goals in specific categories that really resonated with me. This great idea originally came from Ashley Ann at Under the Sycamore.

I’m going to try to focus on one project (my “category”) each month (although some may take longer at my pace). Within the month, I will break down the project into smaller steps (as many of you suggested), write down the steps, prioritize and organize what I have to do and put time frames around each stage. Last week Jen at I Heart Organizing posted a really helpful breakdown for how she sets goals for projects that I’m looking forward to trying. I’m hoping that itemizing each step will help me get started and avoid dragging projects out for so long.

I’m also going to look at one project at a time. For example, I will focus just on painting the main floor and not worry about the laundry room right now.

Blog calendar and notebook

I love to-do lists, but I’ve been loathe to do a master list of everything I want to do at the farm. It’s just too overwhelming for me to see that big of a “big picture.” However, I think the opposite is happening when it comes to the individual projects. By not writing things down, I’m overwhelmed by the whole project and can’t motivate myself to get started. I’m hoping that a list of every single little step will help me realize that the only way to eat the elephant is one bite at a time.

First a saying about insanity and now one about elephants. Look at me just rolling in the wisdom today.

The other thing I’m going to try to do, I think, is share more of the in progress here on the blog. Honestly, this is something I’ve been hesitant to do because projects seem to take me so freakin’ long. If I’d posted about the mudroom when I first started working on it, you would have had the same number of posts but spread here and there over the year. It’s a more accurate portrayal of my life, but I worry that waiting a full year for the before and after is bit frustrating for you as readers. I’d love your feedback on this.

Plus, I’m not sure how interesting the process is for you. I mentioned the words “solar panels” at the beginning of this week. However, I don’t have much to say about this project yet. I mean, I can tell you about our first application, how the government put the program on hold and as a result our application was dead, how the program restarted and we resubmitted our application… and then resubmitted it three more times for clerical technicalities. We’ve been working at this for more than six months now with not much to show. I promise I’ll share all of the details, but right now I don’t feel like there’s enough for a post.

I also hesitate about sharing some of my goals at all. I mean, I don’t have a great track record with accomplishing them in a timely manner… or at all. How interesting is it to read about someone’s plans that never come true? It’s for this reason that I was really hesitant about posting the picture of my dream vegetable garden in my 2014 goals post. That garden is something that I really, really, really want. I don’t know how to explain it, but putting the picture out there… and knowing that the way I work I might not get the garden in this year… or next, if I’m being realistic… makes the dream almost seem less attainable, rather than more.

Blog writing

I don’t want to sound like a complete downer here. In many ways, Matt and I are already living our dream. We’ve found the perfect farm. We love being here. We find it rewarding to work on the house and the property to make them what we want. We’re prepared to take it slowly and do projects as we’re able. I just feel like I need a bit extra motivation to go with my abilities.

So here’s my plan for how I’m going to tackle Home Goals 2014:

  1. Focus on one project at a time. When it comes to the bigger projects, this is something we’re already pretty good at, I think.
  2. Break down projects into their individual steps. Each small to-do counts.
  3. Share the steps here on the blog. A good way to hold myself accountable.
  4. Put timelines around each of the steps. Try to be realistic about these… as Matt will tell you I’m often overly optimistic about what I can accomplish.
  5. Share more of the in-progress as we move through the steps. And celebrate the small accomplishments as we go.
  6. Enjoy the results of our labours. This one’s an easy one.

I am also going to try to give myself a break and be flexible. Maybe an opportunity comes along that moves another project up the list. I’m sure there will still be weekends where I start off with a big to-do list and very little gets crossed off by the end. I’m going to try to be okay with that. I just want to feel a bit more progress than I felt last year.

How do you prioritize your projects? Do you have any tips to share on how to stay motivated? Are you up for more “in-progress” posts?

12 thoughts on “Avoiding insanity

  1. You know, in dog training we’re always reminded to split behaviours down, rather than lump them all together, because it makes it easier for the dog (and the human!) to feel like something’s been accomplished, so that’s a great choice to list all the little bits of each task.

    This year, I want to start record-keeping more, as it will help me move my training on with each dog at the appropriate rate. As part of this, I bought myself a Filofax, instead of a regular diary, for 2014. It’s A5, so I can “design” and print my own inserts.

    So far, it’s going well, it definitely helps – I have all sorts of information in it that used to be kept in various places (or, worst of all, my head!). Hopefully I’ll have time to do a post about it soon 🙂

    • This is a great point, Sam. I just need to train myself like I train Baxter! 🙂

      BTW, my method of record-keeping or tracking milestones with Baxter is actually an unpublished post on the blog where I list special accomplishments and the date they happened. It’s nice to look back and see how far we’ve come.

  2. I recommend reading “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy. My mom got it for me for Christmas and it is about learning to not procrastinate and get stuff done. It has helped me a lot already!

    I am a “list person” I feel lost if I don’t have a direction written down. My BF is not a “list person”, he feels overwhelmed if he sees everything written in front of him. So I make lists for me and try not to refer him to them since they are not helpful to him. You just have to find what works for you!

  3. Wow! Well done! At my age I find listing Need to: in my journal every day does , sometimes ,keep me on track. It does feel good when I can cross that item off the next day.

    You have been doing amazing things and I am in awe.

    What was it that Grandma Thomson used to say ( this was originally about making pastry) “ Don’t make work out of it!” ? Sometimes I have to say that about my “fiddlin’ little jobs.” It makes me smile, remembering that great lady and reminding myself to enjoy the moment.

    Have a great weekend,


    Auntie Anne

  4. Since the list of major projects around my place seems to evolve over time, and I know I’m unlikely to forget what needs to be done, I keep the big picture to-do list in my head. But last month I was feeling down because it seemed like I had a ton of work to do and wasn’t getting anywhere, so I made a list of micro-tasks, similar to what you’ve described, except that it covered the things I needed to do only that weekend to stay on track with some projects. I even included stuff like coiling the hose by the spigot and moving two corner-dwelling spiders outside. It seems excessive but when I was able to check off most of the list at the end of my weekend, it made me realize how much I actually did accomplish, even though at the moment it almost seemed like silly little tasks. I repeated this process at the beginning of each weekend and it led to completion of my basement reno three weekends later. A basement that I started working on last march with little progress all year. So for me, the list really helped.
    I’ve also resolved to go easier on myself, less of the guilt or progress-shaming. We have so many expectations to live up to, why pile more on ourselves. And to add to your wise sayings, Rome wasn’t built in a day! So don’t beat yourself up!

  5. Excellent plan. My favourite book on the subject is ‘getting things done’ by David Allen.
    One of the attractions of your blog is you keep it real. So yes, more posts on projects as they occur would be welcome, better than a big reveal IMHO.
    I also love how you always mention how you maintain family traditions, like buying the same calendar as your grandmother and building the bird feeder with your nephew.
    Off to make my own list!

  6. I would be very happy to read work-in-progress posts. I think most of us have projects we would like to finish and haven’t, and many blogs just show endless parades of perfection. I can’t identify with that. It’s refreshing when somebody shows it like it is.
    It sounds like you’ve got some good methods in mind for breaking up your list and not getting as overwhelmed and discouraged. I heard another good tip the other day: if you’re procrastinating or can’t face your to-do list, you take the shortest and/or easiest job and do it first. Apparently, once you get started it will carry you past your stucked-ness (is that a word?) After you get going, you just might surprise yourself. 🙂

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