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 9: I’m Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My “To Do” List

Red has always had a tendency (Black would say it’s her default setting) of becoming overwhelmed quickly, especially when presented with a project that she isn’t able to do in “one sitting”. And this was even before her crisis, when she had more time. Before she had to juggle being a mom to two young girls along with handling many new responsibilities, when something as simple as scrapbooking became a major task. And although scrapbooking’s as “warm and fuzzy” as it gets, Black gave her some pragmatic advice that not only calmed her down by making the project manageable, but included the girls.

P.S. – Red knows scrapbooking’s never done, but now, years later, the boxes of “new” items to be included are in the attic, and she’s not sure if working on them will give her a feeling of accomplishment or be bittersweet as her “little girls” have now grown into young women. Regardless, Red decided that when she has some pockets of time (whether over holidays or weekends or maybe whenever she needs a “break”), she’ll continue to eat that elephant that Black had given her the “recipe” to many years prior.



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OK. One of the things that has been on my list forever is working on the girls’ scrapbooks.


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Scrapbooking? It is a big business and nothing to laugh at. But since I am not a scrapbooker (not sure that is even a real word), could you give me a little more detail?
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Red, a stay-at-home mom with two young daughters at the time, was always busy and focused on her girls and family life. Of course, life always has stressful events, and she was looking forward to the small "fun" one of getting a puppy. But she wasn't prepared for two "big" life events at the same time – her husband got fired and they'd have to move. And if that wasn't enough, she found herself taking on financial responsibilities, including learning about personal finances. So, to say she felt overwhelmed would be an understatement. And to say she was looking for sympathy from Black would be reasonable. But to say that she was unique because she was "stressed out" would be inaccurate. At some point, we all feel like we're dealing with a seemingly endless list of tasks and not enough hours to do everything, not to mention not having the energy or stamina. The reality is stress affects everyone, although it affects everyone differently.

P.S. – Years later, although Red knows that there are plenty of causes of stress (not to mention, what COVID-19 has done to everyone's stress level), she sometimes has a habit of thinking that her stress is "special". Yes, there might be some specific things that are "unique" to her (and Black would argue complicated by the fact she's warm-and-fuzzy), but as a single mom and the daughter of an elderly parent, there are issues many of us have to manage. Just like how many of us are feeling the joy – but also the stress – of the holidays. Of course, Black has helped her realize the value of finding "alone" time and exercising (although sometimes it requires taking an extra-long walk or a bike ride). But often, it's enough for Red to know that she's not alone in these feelings and remember that a busy life will be stressful at times, so finding balance is key.



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You OK?


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Yes. Why?
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Chapter 16: I Have Three Children If You Count My Husband

Even before Red's life was turned upside down, she wanted to be the best mom possible, so often wondered and worried about the best way to raise her girls. And when she was in the midst of her "crisis" (her word, not Black's), her daughters were very young – Sawyer was 1-1/2 years old and Natasha just under 5, although she'd proclaim, "I'm almost 5." (It's funny how "young" is subjective, as at the time Red considered them young but now "very young".) But as Red turned to Black for "answers" to everything, Black understood one of Red's top priorities was making sure that the girls weren't getting short-changed. Given Black doesn't have any children, Red was amazed to receive what she's referred to as "Some of the best parental advice. Ever." (Black just rolls her eyes.)

P.S. – Looking back, Red claims that Black's advice not only made all the difference at the time but over the years. Somehow, the simple concept of treating kids as "little people" (Black calls them "munchkins"), so with respect and honesty, trusting them with responsibility and giving them credit for understanding and doing the right thing, was the closest thing to a "magical approach" for Red (yes, growing up, she and the girls watched a lot of Disney) that she's ever found. And, surprisingly enough, has even helped her with managing "big people."


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Patience, grasshopper. You also have to remember that when I first started dating Larry, his girls were 7 and 9, so I skipped over the phase you are in. I had dated men with children, but none as young as Larry's, so I was not quite sure how to deal with them. So, I decided to treat them like little people. In fact, that is why I started calling them the "Munchkins," like the little people from The Wizard of Oz.


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I always wondered about that. Were you the good witch or the bad witch?


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Neither. I was probably more like the Mayor of Munchkin City. Since I was used to working in a corporate environment, I applied the same people skills.


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You're kidding, right?
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