I just spent the last half hour researching how to fix my computer. For the last few weeks, its start-up time has gotten longer and longer. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first half hour I’ve spent on this problem. I’ve tried four different things so far and none of them have helped. The annoying part is, each time I try something I have to reboot my computer to see if it worked, and then each time wait until it eventually starts up again just as slowly as before. Today, after another two attempts at fixing things, I waited six and a half minutes for it to start up again.
This is not a problem I want to deal with today (or ever). I have a long list of other things I’d like to get done, as well as having free time to do something I enjoy. But despite how hard I plan for life, there are always things that get in the way, big and small. The big wrenches that get thrown my way are easy to remember. I hadn’t planned on a global pandemic this year, but here we are. The little things though, like trying to fix my computer, aren’t things that I will remember a year from now, but they are things that add up to steal my time nonetheless.
It is so easy to feel like a failure when I look back at all of the things I had planned to do in a day and see almost nothing crossed off my to-do list. Days and weeks and often months go by before I actually get things done. This would be okay if I just had to get caught up, but new to-dos are constantly being added making it feel like I’m way too far behind to ever make progress.
I went through a long season of my life feeling like I never accomplished anything in my days. I would reflect on how each day went and couldn’t understand how despite having hours more time than I needed to get things done, I somehow only managed to complete one or two small tasks. Where did all the time in my day go?
The problem was, I judged my day based on what I had set out to do. I reflected only on the things that were on my list from the start. My accomplishments were only valid if I was crossing off something I had intended to do that day. This was a habit that never let me internalize all of the times I’d dealt with things I hadn’t planned on, and all of the repetitive, mundane responsibilities that never make it onto a to-do list because they’re just part of life. But a half hour here and there on necessary but unplanned tasks adds up quickly. There were certainly many days that I squandered on my own accord, and there will be many more to come I’m sure, but more often than not I got a lot more done in a day than I realized.
How do I know this? Because I started keeping track.
Since June, I’ve been writing down what I do each day as I do it in a small notebook (this is very feasible thanks to spending nearly every day at home since March). I started this practice because I felt like I was never getting anything done and wanted to get a more objective perspective and a better understanding of how I fill my days. To my surprise, there were a lot of things I wrote down each day, a lot of things that I was accomplishing without internalizing, like spending half an hour trying to fix my computer, doing laundry or dishes, or shopping online for someone’s birthday present. These individual things may not seem like accomplishments, but they are still things that take time out of my day and things that normally would have slipped my mind when reflecting on what I got done.
Thanks to these daily logs, my mindset has shifted immensely since June. While I still have days where I feel like a failure and days where I objectively accomplish nothing, my overall view of myself is much more positive and realistic, and as another added bonus, the simple act of keeping track of things has increased my motivation to be productive and encouraged me to be more intentional with how I spend my time.
So if, like me, you ever feel like a failure when you don’t accomplish things on a given day, or don’t cross anything off your to-do list, chances are, you’re doing much better than you realize. There are so many little things that require our time and attention each and every day and we are knocking those things out one by one often without realizing it. So if this is something you struggle with, cut yourself some slack, I’m sure you’re doing just fine.