Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

When Red's "crisis" began she went from her perfect world to one filled with chaos, and didn't know where to start. At the time, Black explained she needed to focus on only the most important things so Red's "pretty lists" had been ignored. As was most of the paper that had managed to pile up on her desk (and soon overflowed into piles on the floor).

P.S. – Red once thought that after she had "mastered" how to organize her paper it would mean the end of her paper mountains. But that was wishful thinking. Even years later, there are times when her paper seems to quickly grow from a manageable stack to overwhelming her desk, and sometimes even the floor. And if she mentions it to Black, usually receives a sarcastic comment suggesting she re-read the excerpt below.


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If one big list isn't the answer, what is? And where do I start? And what about everything that's lost somewhere in these mountains of paper? There's no way I can go through all these piles and organize everything into lists. It would take forever!


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Chill! Those mountains are causing you stress due to their mere presence. Those piles of paper represent unmade decisions and incomplete tasks. And as they grow, so does your stress level.


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No kidding!


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And if you let them keep growing, you will get to a point where you will have ignored everything for so long that trying to figure out what you really need to do will be such a major project that you will feel totally overwhelmed.


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Too late, I'm already there. Any chance I can wave a magic wand and make it all disappear? And start from a clean slate? And a clean desk? And clean floors?


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You and your magic wands! You have been watching too much Disney. If you want to start clean — throw everything away and start over.


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That's not an option! I know some things in these piles can continue to be ignored, but I also know there are things hiding in there that are important.


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If you can not throw the piles away you have no other option than to go through them. The good news is it is more important to know what you are ignoring than it is to actually deal with everything in the piles. Make it a two-prong attack.


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You have not seen these piles. Two-prong? Try twelve-prong.


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That is one of the things I hate about IM. You can keep interrupting me.

Remember when we were doing your expenses and you sorted things into "required" vs. "discretionary?" Well, you are going to do something very similar with these piles. Take a handful off the top and start sorting it into piles based on priority — immediate, this week, next week, next month, next lifetime. If your piles are similar to mine, there will be plenty of non-essential things, such as filing, reading (miscellaneous magazine or newspaper articles) and general correspondence (things with no deadlines). I would start separate piles for those.

Once you get that done, keep only the most important piles on your desk. Move everything else to the floor. Then you can focus on what is on your desk and start to put together your "To Do" list based on the priority of these papers. Obviously, if you have items that need to be done immediately, you may have to stop your sorting and handle them, but otherwise keep working.

If it makes you feel any better, I bet most of your piles will end up being things you can continue to ignore, or at least that are not important enough to earn a place on one of your beloved lists. In fact, I am sure that most of it will not even make it to your desk! Getting started is the hardest part, but it is something you can easily work on in 15-or 30-minute increments and make slow, but steady, progress. So get off IM and start.


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Are you done? Can I say something?


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Yes.


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Bye.

Chapter 5: Open Your Eyes Before Your Wallet

To say that Red fought having to deal with her family finances is a huge understatement. But she finally summoned up the courage to start looking at their financial situation (well, maybe not so much courage as it was surrendering to Black's insistence) and slowly starts working her way through Black's six step "Where Is Your Money Going" checklist. As she prepares to tackle Step 4: Develop A Realistic Budget, Red gets to break some surprising news to Black about a fond childhood memory.

P.S. – Red rarely gets the "upper hand" in terms of her older sister, Black, and for it to be related to money makes it even sweeter. Yet, she'll admit that for all the enjoyment of getting to "break the news" to Black, she'd have been better off having the same childhood "punishment" as Black.


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OK. I'm ready to tackle Step 4. Is this something we can do via e-mail or do I need to come over and see how you do your budget?


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Here is where I have to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," because I have not done a personal budget in years. But I can remember my first one.


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You remember your first budget? You have a strange collection of fond memories!


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It was when Mom put me on a clothing budget. She gave me an amount I could spend every year and wrote it on a big manila envelope. Every time I bought something, I would deduct that amount from the total and put the receipt in the envelope. I always knew how much was left in my budget, so I never had to ask if I could buy something. Mom was brilliant!


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[Silence for 5 seconds, followed by a burst of laughter.] You're kidding, right?
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Red has always admired Black because she can go for a run or exercise with weights as a mental break from her day, not to mention the physical benefits derived from her workout routine. She's always envied people that exercise on a regular basis as she thought they obviously have more spare time than she did. Then, when she was in the midst of her "crisis", Black helped her realize that it might be that other people just prioritized exercise higher than she did.

P.S. – For Red, making exercise a priority still presented a challenge even though she knows all of its benefits. (How could she forget with Black's dedication to exercise serving as a constant reminder?) Ironically, the pandemic made Red look to exercise as a possible way to help reduce her stress. And it worked! So now her daily walks are a top priority. (Maybe we should make "positive changes due to the pandemic" a future post?!)


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Quick question. I was wondering if, and I repeat the word IF, I wanted to start exercising, how would I go about it?


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Hello. Hello. Who is this? You must have the wrong number.
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Introduction

If you want to understand Red's character, you can read the introduction of our book where she uses a lot of blah-blah-blah to describe herself and Black. On the other hand, Black, in typical fashion, cut to the chase and provided the book designer with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

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