I don’t know about you, but I have a To-Do list. It helps me stay organized and focused on the things I want to be sure get done each day. I love the feeling of successfully crossing things off the list and moving on to the next thing. I like knowing that I have accomplished what I set out to do.
But some of the things on my list (maybe yours, too?) invariably get moved to the next day, and the next day, and the next week and the next month. After a while, they usually fall off my list, but they stay in the back of my mind as a thing I need to get to someday. They’re usually not big things like remodeling the kitchen, they’re little things like hanging a picture or touching up paint on a wall. They’re things I could do in a short period of time, and for which I have all the necessary equipment and skills.
We often think that small things or things we don’t want to bother with right now aren’t very stressful. Although that’s true from one angle, when we add up all the little things and the things we put on the back burner, they add up to a big thing that may even be bigger than the crises that take our full time and attention. A crisis is stressful, but often has a distinct beginning and ending where we can leave the stress behind. The little things take a little bit of time several times a day, and we don’t always add that up to the amount of time they take for real. Every time I walk past that wall that needs paint, I think about it and imagine the paint in the garage and when a good time to work on that might be and where are my painting clothes and the blue tape and about a hundred other things. If I do this even three times a day for a week, I could have painted that wall twice over and wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.
But instead, I keep thinking about it and then forgetting about it and then remembering it again. I think about it as I’m getting ready for bed, when I look at my list, when I drive past the hardware store, when my friend tells me about a project she is doing in her house, and then I tell myself I’ll get to it tomorrow or this weekend, and my stress level rises. Eventually that wall drives me crazy enough that I tell everyone I know about that wall and the paint, and still I do nothing about it. And it isn’t just the wall, it’s also the four or ten or fifty other things that fall into that category: replacing broken cupboard handles, cleaning out under the sink, calling a friend I’ve been meaning to talk to, giving the dog a bath, finding time to meditate, you get the picture. I’m feeling stressed-out just writing about it!
And if I were to just bring in paint from the garage the next time I walk past that wall, I’m part of the way to the solution. Maybe next time I walk past, I’ll find the blue tape and a sheet to cover the floor. And the next time, I’ll pull out the paint brush. I’d have the project finished and one less thing to think about in a day or two. Maybe I’d pull the paint can off the shelf in the garage and finish the whole project right away.
Think about the things you have been tolerating, things you could easily solve or finish or fix. Pick a day to do one or three of them and do it. Schedule someone to come to you and finish what you know you can’t do alone. You might be surprised by how good you feel afterwards, how much less stressed.