A Dirty Little Entrepreneur Secret
I keep a beautiful, gilded 5×7″ notebook as my to-do list. I used to use post-its everywhere so they would be in front of my face reminding me of everything I needed to do, but each day and the more and more post-its there were, the less and less I liked going into my office and getting started in the morning. I was bullying myself with this mass of notes that no one could ever finish. I hated that they were all staring at me – all of these obligations, looking at me, begging me to finish them. I switched to pieces of note paper. I would recycle previously printed items, cut them into fours and use them as note paper. Now, I had a stack of notes and it was far less intense than the multi-colored post-its glaring at me from all over my desk and monitor. The only problem with the stack of notes was that the stack kept getting bigger. The number of notes added to the stack each day far outweighed the number of notes removed because the task was completed. It was also hard to go through the stack easily to see what was most important and often things would get forgotten or worse – unintentionally pushed to the bottom of the stack. I would also lose a note every now and then. I would take one that was important out of the stack and then possibly set it down somewhere, take it in my purse with me so that I wouldn’t forget to do it that day, and sometimes I would have no idea how/why it would have disappeared. I would think to myself, “I know that I wrote that down”, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. It would make me feel crazy inside.
I finally switched to a notebook with lined paper – like the ones we had in school. It was okay, and certainly felt way better than the giant stack of notes. It still took more time than I would like to look through the notebook for the items with the highest importance but I was really feeling good about having all of the notes in one place. I could take it with me (although it was 8.5×11″ so I didn’t take it everywhere), and I never lost any notes again – which was truly a savoir for me and my business. I cannot even express how embarrassing it was to have to write someone an email asking for all of the information they had already given to me. It was excruciating. It also meant that the task would get put off until I got the courage to write and ask – not a good thing either.
I used the large, school-sized notebook until one year when I was in Sebastopol for Tribal Fest. We would always take a little trip into town to visit some of the shops and have lunch the day after the festival was over. We popped into this adorable shop called Rosemary’s Garden. Very cute shop filled with lots of fresh herbs, spices, essential oils, and adorable gift-ey things that no one needs but everyone wants. I found a beautiful notebook with a magnetic closure, lined sheets of really gorgeous paper inside and a gilded cover. Right then I knew that the little book would be my new notebook! The magnetic closure would make it easy to take with me since the pages inside were protected by the cover – I really don’t like when the edges of the pages get ripped or frayed. It was about half the size of my previous notebook, making it purse-worthy. And it was absolutely beautiful!
I began to use my new little notebook diligently. I would write more carefully and make the pages look pretty. I would only add the important things. If it wasn’t important or something that lead towards my goals, it would just get stored in my memory with hopes that I might tackle it at a later date but also with the thought that if it didn’t c’est la vie! I wanted my little book to stay pretty inside because it was so beautiful outside. I came up with a system for finding notes more quickly inside the book. I started using acronyms for each of the things I was working on and the acronym would go at the start of each note in all capital letters so that I could quickly glance through my book and find the next task to be completed for the particular project I was working on that day. For example, HIR is the acronym for the Henna Intensive & Retreat. All of the notes that have HIR at the beginning are task items for that event.
I loved my new system and things were going really smoothly until I got to the end of the book – it was full! Now I was overwhelmed again. I wanted to start a new book, but couldn’t imagine the idea of having TWO whole books filled with t0-do’s. Also, I was very concerned about moving on to the new book and leaving the first one in the dust – also leaving all of those tasks behind and unfinished. I had a new book waiting, thanks to the lovely Devilla – she had gifted me a very beautiful book, also magnetic enclosure and gilded, at Cairo Caravan one year. I had been so excited to use it but now it seemed like a conundrum. I asked myself, do I stop writing down tasks all-together until I get the first book’s lists completed? Or do I start on a new book and work from both of them?
I decided I just couldn’t work with two books. I was very unlikely to carry both of them with me and even less likely to check the old book for outstanding t0-do’s. But I definitely did not want to stop writing down my ideas and new tasks to be done. So, I went through the original book, line by line. I crossed out anything that had already been completed but hadn’t been marked off yet. (I keep a fat marker on hand – dark in color, thick enough to cross out my writing – to cross out each task as it’s finished. A highlighter doesn’t work for me because it makes me eye go *to* the item, vs. skipping over it since it’s already completed.) Everything that hadn’t been completed, got transferred/written into the new book. I know what you’re thinking, “but the old book was full, won’t you just fill the new book?” It seemed like I might at first. The very oldest tasks had never been completed because they were back at the start of the book. But a cool thing happened as I went through the book. I crossed off a LOT of tasks that I had finished. That was fun. And I weeded out the rest. I chose what was important enough and still needed to be done and what didn’t. Anything that seemed trivial as I was transferring, didn’t make the cut. When I was done, there were only a handful of pages filled in the new book and I was off and running with my second, beautiful book!
I’m guessing by now, you’re thinking, does she have a point to all of this? So what, she wrote in a book – good for her! I know, it seems like such a silly thing. Something obvious. But really it wasn’t obvious. I think I had to start at the post-its, move on to the school notebook, and graduate to the beautiful, gilded notebook (with the magnetic enclosure – have I mentioned how great the magnetic enclosure is?) But I do have a point beyond all of the note-taking!
How do you keep your to-do list? And have you already had the epiphany that you can’t do it all – or are you just now realizing it?
Blume Bauer – www.sirensongproductions.org