The quest of done – I am done with you

When did it start?

Probably already in kindergarten. I definitely recall an obsession with maximizing the number of red stars (hello, I was born in USSR) on my first grade “performance scorecard”.

It only escalated from there. The Skanavi’s Mathematics Problems Collection for University Applicants, a Soviet classic that has remained with me for the past 15 years, surviving 6 international moves, still bears the pencil “check” marks that I placed there as I conquered its problems one by one.

I am possibly the one person alive who actually read the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (easily the driest book in the history of writing) cover-to-cover and took detailed notes.

I am the kind of person who seeks out mixed up formulas, financial knots, impossibly complicated projects – and then throws herself into the often excruciatingly painful process of untangling them, transforming them into the state of shiny perfection.

And as much as I sometimes whine and complain about the process, I actually like it. And the quest for perfection is definitely an important part of my UVP.

The line between radical responsibility and pure insanity…

…is very thin and blurred.

Oh, how much I want to:

  • Check every single point off my list by 5pm (30 to-dos in my Tasks folder now, some of them overdue).
  • Have every email answered quickly and thoroughly (up to 20 follow-up flags in Outlook, most of them due by the end of the week).
  • Get all the photos sorted out and uploaded from last year’s Africa trip (I think we are about 18 albums behind).
  • Get on top of my personal projects list in My Life Organized (300+ items, thinking about declaring a to-do list bankruptcy and starting over).
  • Catch up with everyone I work with now, worked before, and all the friends I have not spoken to in a while (so many people to learn from; so many people to coach; so many loved ones thousands of miles away).
  • Have all my accounts and processes documented in great detail, so that if I flip my convertible speeding on I-10, someone can pick up my work where I left off (good luck to that innocent soul).

And it would be nice to have this post double- and tripled-edited, with appropriate links inserted (I am sure hundreds of people would immediately click through to Amazon and buy PMBOK), and decorated with pretty pictures.

Oh well.

I will never be fully, absolutely, 100% done. My lists will keep getting longer. And I will keep breathing and reminding myself that it’s never about done – it’s about doing.

Join the club?

It’s free admission. To-do list list liberation movement! Let’s not get it done – let’s just do something and see what happens.

Or, maybe simply take a break – breaks almost never make it on our to-do lists.

What say you? To-do lists – are they your allies or bullies?

8 thoughts on “The quest of done – I am done with you

  1. I love this article! I feel my absolute PASSION to get things done, I feel my love for my lists — and the love for “crossing off” of things that get done. At the same time, I feel my deep knowing that there is a space of stillness underneath, in which the things that are really mine to do will get done in a peaceful flow, and I yearn for the trust that allows me to take care of all of my needs, including the one for breaks.

    Thank you for expressing, so well, some feelings I relate to very much.

    And YES, I want to buy (or borrow?) PMBOK !!!!

  2. aahhh this article it’s like translation from my brain language(except I haven’t read PMBOK)
    btw reading this now I’m starting to realize something about my to-do lists as well, for each crossed item I add like 3 new ones and start another 2 to-do lists, need to re-evaluate that.

  3. Jenia Laszlo says:

    Lorraine 🙂 *blush*

    Next time you come over, we are going to work some project management terminology into the routine. 1, 2, 3, 4 = scope, communication, budget, integration. (Now that I typed it, it does not make sense – I promise I will explain!)

  4. Jenia Laszlo says:

    @Oldrich: forget the PMBOK. If you decide to go the PMP route (you honestly don’t need to unless you work for a large company), let me know and I’ll send the Amazon link to a better PMP prep book.

    Multiple to-do lists and inboxes – yep, me too. Then regularly they get purged, and re-integrated into one master list. Then get out of control again. Rinse, repeat 🙂 The story of my life!

  5. Brilliant, brilliant, and brilliant!

    Years ago i did a workshop where the starting premise was “it’s not all going to get done.” And then we made the real to-do list. All of the things in our heads. Everything that popped up and intruded on our thoughts over the 3 days of this program.

    By the end of two days, I had 1800 items on my list! My head was overflowing!

    And, I felt guilty about not getting it all done.

    That went away fast .

    Now, I get excited by all of the things I could be doing. Sometimes I can make a very small, limited list. At times I have a project that really does have a long, detailed list of what has to happen for that project to succeed.

    And sometimes I’ll even create the “what I could be doing next” list (which is much better than a to-do list). I’ll have some work things, items like laundry and going to the bank, and a few things in reality I probably won’t get done in the next few days, like learning French.

    Now, I’m putting “explore Jenia’s blog” at the top of today’s list. And, thanks to Chris Guillebeau for tweeting about it!


  6. I always feel anxious about my mile-long to-do list and all the items that are not done yet. But when I stop to think about it, everything that needs to get done always does get done. And life proceeds accordingly.

    So why not just drop the anxiety?

    I know, duh, right?

    Little by little I’m getting better at just sitting with the mile-long to-do list, allowing it to be, and allowing myself to not ever be done.

    And geez, if I ever were totally done, that would pretty much suck! Yeah, it would be great to be done with the stuff I really don’t want to do, but having stuff to do is kind of what having a life worth living is all about.

  7. Jenia Laszlo says:

    @Melissa – oh yes, the anxiety! Old friend indeed. And letting go of it, little-by-little, eventually leads us to a place where a mile-long list does not have quite as much emotional weight.

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