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 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

The last thing Red needed in the middle of her "crisis" (her husband being unexpectedly fired) was to get sick, but that's exactly what happened. (Is there ever a good time to get sick?) And although she had walking pneumonia, her instinct as a mom was to put the needs of others, especially her children, ahead of her own. Luckily, Black, being pragmatic and unemotional, knew the advice she was about to give her sister would initially seem counterintuitive, so included what she hoped would be a memorable analogy …

P.S. – Even if Red didn't realize it at the time, self-care has always been important. But it became even more important during the pandemic (especially emotional self-care) as many of us have had to "to be" there for others – whether our loved ones, neighbors, community.


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You must be joking. Dr. Fields means well but doesn't understand that doing nothing is a luxury right now — not an option.


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Well, "Wonder Woman," I think it is you that does not understand. It is not an option. It is a necessity. Let Nick handle things for a few days. Trust me, everyone will survive.


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But there are so many things I need to do. Life doesn't stop just because I'm sick.


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True. But the bottom line is that unless you take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your family.


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I understand the logic, but it's difficult for me to just stop and crawl into bed, as much as that's what I want to do. I feel like I'm letting the family down. I'm not trying to sound like "Wonder Woman," I'm just being honest.


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Let me give you an analogy. If you were on an airplane with the girls and you lost altitude and the oxygen masks came down, would you put the mask on yourself first or the girls?
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Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.

P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …


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I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!


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If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.


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Type faster. What's the secret?
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Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice

Three months into her "crisis" (Red's word, not Black's), Red looks back and begins to realize the impact of the lessons she was forced to learn were truly invaluable. And that as much as she initially fought having to face reality and actually make changes, vs. just hoping she could "wish" everything to be better, that would've fixed nothing. In fact, it would've only made things worse. Of course, she'll always question how Black could have been so optimistic, going so far as to say Red's crisis was going to be the best thing that ever happened to her.

P.S. – Red still questions Black's optimism, but that's because she's come to realize her natural tendency is to initially focus on the negative. She claims it's because she's "wired" that way, but that's ok because she has learned that just means she has to work harder to overcome the negative and focus on the positive. And challenging times are the perfect time to remind herself that although this mindset and approach may seem hard to do, the results can be so much better than initially hoped for.


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I'm surprised to find you online again.


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Why? Typical Saturday night. Done with dinner and no one to talk to once I get home. Only tonight home is a hotel and there is no one snoring on the couch.


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Sorry.


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No reason to be. Everything will work out. One way or another.


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That's what you told me when Nick was fired. In fact, you went so far as to say you thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Did you really mean that, or were you trying to make me feel better?
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