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Non-traditional life list.


Most of the time I love my job as a freelance writer – the freedom to work from home, the flexibility to set my own hours, the variety of projects, the great clients.

Problem is, all that freedom and flexibility means my business — and busy-ness – can fluctuate wildly so when work comes in I tend to take it.

Perhaps that explains why I took on nine major new client projects last month.

But, like a bad infomercial, that’s not all!

In the same time span, my only child graduated from high school, I hosted house guests for 15 days, and I dealt with the deaths of three people I loved. Between funerals and commencement ceremonies, there were times I wasn’t sure I would get through it.

I worked 18+ hours a day to meet deadlines. I do not recommend this schedule — it results in nervous tics and causes inadvertent two-month blog-cations. It leads to neglect of loved ones, in particular my husband, my son and my parents (who traveled 2,300 miles for the privilege) — all of whom were incredibly gracious, supportive and understanding. I didn’t eat right or exercise nearly enough. Or sleep.

But oddly, the one thing I did do amidst all this self-inflicted insanity was start another new writing project – a list.

Working so many hours for so many days in a row opened my eyes to just how much time I’d been wasting before. And I decided that if my life were ever restored to my pre-project “normal,” I would start making better use of my time.

So during this crazy busy spell, whenever an idea popped into my head for something I could/should/wanted to be doing instead, I wrote it down.

It’s not a particularly remarkable list. In fact, it’s a rather hodgepodge jumble of to-do items, thoughts and ideas. It’s a life list of sorts, but it’s not at all glamorous in the traditional life-list sense – no exotic travel destinations, no skydiving, no triathlons.

Rather, my life list is made up of ways to use my time to improve my life — projects I need to finish, routines I want to simplify, blog posts I’d like to write, and relationships I want to nurture: “Cooking w/CDA before college” “Paint the guest bathroom baseboards.” “Learn Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on the piano.” “Finish bookshelf redo.”

Mundane, yes. But the past two months have been an effective wake-up call for making every minute count. Funerals will do that. You have X number of minutes in your life; use it or lose it.

And that’s why I made my list.

My list is uniquely mine – captured at a time when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And now a constant reminder to be grateful that now I can.

A non-expert’s tips for making a non-traditional life list:

Keep it free-form. Although my inner control freak threatens to take over and organize everything in categories, I’m finding it’s a good exercise to run through the entire stream-of-consciousness list each time. And since there’s no particular order, I can keep adding ideas as they occur.

Keep it simple. Wherever you decide to keep your list, make sure you’ll see it often and can update it easily. I’m old school — I still like to physically write my lists. This one lives on an ancient steno pad that never leaves my desktop.

Keep it realistic. This list is not about that trip to Paris. Rather, it’s for capturing things that are meaningful, that need to be done soon, and that can be accomplished in a relatively short time with few resources.

Just keep it. Most people have a much better chance of accomplishing things if they write them down. I’m no exception and I’m guessing you’re not either.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/28 6:00 PM

    I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it many more times but you are an amazing writer. I love your style and thought process. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  2. Jennifer permalink*
    06/28 7:13 PM

    You made my night, Tami — as you often do! So sad I only got to see you for a second when you were here. Next time, a definite plan.

  3. 06/28 8:31 PM

    Ahhhhh, I’m exhaling. I so needed this tonight! Can I hire you to stay with me for a week and be my life coach? (or couch, either one! ;-)) I need to make this list to organize/prioritize and then maybe I can start digging out. I’m feeling a bit like a mother of three small children!

  4. Jennifer permalink*
    06/28 9:13 PM

    I would gladly spend a week with you any time, though I’d be the one learning. It’s actually comforting to hear you say there are times when being the mother of three little ones can be a bit much — you always manage to make it seem so effortless!

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