TO DO; MUST DO; HAVE TO; WANT TO....WHAT'S IT TO YOU?

New Year=New Resolutions=New To-Do List.

Resolutions: We all have them, we all make them. Some of us resolve not to make new New Year's Resolutions. (I did this once. . . ) And then, because setting an action plan is imperative if we seriously expect to accomplish whatever it is we resolve, we make a "To-Do List." And for a few days or weeks, we may even manage to tick off some of those items on that list of To-Dos. Then our resolve fades, or our list is buried under more pressing issues, and we fail....again.

2015 was no exception. We rang out the old year. Toasted the new. And I made one resolution.

Now, three weeks into 2015, I'm happy to say it's a resolution I have, easily, happily, guilt-free-ly kept so far. That alone is worth cheering: WHOOOOOOOO! 

So, it's with joy, pride and the expectation that I will remain resolute, I am sharing my 2015 New Year's Resolution. I Kelly Bennett resolved to:

Say “Phooey!” to Must-Do
”Why?” to Have-To
”How will I?” to Want-To!

Yes, this means I am still creating To-Do lists. However, after I do, I prioritize each item on the list:

Must-Do: Often these are imposed by others and/or come with a heavy dose of guilt which often elevates them to the top of the pile resulting in them being dealt with, done, crossed off first, when our energy is highest. 

Instead, say "Phooey!" Who says I Must-Do this? Then ask yourself, "Why?" Why is now? Why should first, be the time to do IT? If you can't come up with a good reason, then either don't do IT, or, as in the case of "Write thank you notes" "Order new sheets" "Call your mother," move IT down on the To-Do List to a low energy, low creativity time, nothing better I can be doing then, anyway, time. Ie, Write Thank you notes while watching TV and Call mom when you are waiting in line at the movie, or walking the treadmill.

Have-To: The difference between Have-To and Must-Do, is that not doing Have-To items will result in consequences you want to avoid. For example: "File insurance," "Fill out expense report,"do laundry". 

Instead, ask "Why?" What will happen if I don't do IT? If the consequences of doing IT will not hit your where it counts: in the wallet or the heart, then IT is not a Have-To. IT either belongs in one of the other categories, or, IT doesn't belong on your list! 

If IT is a Have-To List, then decide exactly when you will do IT. Allot IT a specific amount of time. Have-To items have to be done. We want what doing IT brings us so we should give IT due respect. Slot IT into your schedule. Follow your schedule. But do not think about IT until the allotted time.

Want-to: Ask, do I really want IT?  If the answer is yes, then it needs to be high on your To-Do list. Put it at the top of your list--in BOLD AND ALL CAPS! 

For every Want-To, ask: How Can I? Once you know what you want. What you really, really want. What will make your IT happen. The next step is to create an action plan for how to do what you want. Position these items--the steps it will take for you to be able to do-get-achieve WHAT YOU WANT!--in high energy times on your calendar. Above the HAVE-TOs, squeezing out the MUST-DOs. Then get to IT! 

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Now it's your turn--But only if you WANT-TO, too!??

Pull out your To-Do list. Examine each item and put it in the proper category. Is it a:

  • Have-To?
  • Must-Do?
  • Want-To?

Three weeks into this new year, and I'm happy to say I've been doing what I really WANT-TO.

What I WANT-TO do is have time with my family. Babying my daughter and brand-new grandboy, Dylan, And loving up my bigger grandboy, Bennett. Dang, is this fun!

TO-DO: WHAT'S IT TO YOU? Playlist:

 

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Unfold Fate

"There is something in me maybe someday
to be written; now it is folded, and folded,
and folded, like a note in school." -Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds, the first woman to win the T.S.Eliot Prize for Poetry wrote that. It made me think of so many grubby folded notes I confiscated after having rescued them from the dirty clothes pile. Max, especially, was an avid note collector. Out of self preservation, I never read any of those confiscated notes. Not because I was respectful of my children's privacy, but because I was protecting my innocence. What I didn't know couldn't hurt/worry me. . . 

Looks like she     like she wore an Ali   Magraw's    Love Story   -ish crocheted caps, no?

Looks like she like she wore an Ali   Magraw's Love Story-ish crocheted caps, no?

The award was for a poetry collection entitled "Stag's Leap." (Yesterday, Nov. 19th, is Sharon's birthday, which is how the "folded notes" came to my attention--a Goodreads gift) She's a California girl, too, born in San Francisco, maybe that's why she feels familiar.

Folded notes, strips of words, pluck one and see  . . . 

Folded notes, strips of words, pluck one and see  . . . 

Guardian article noted the title refers to "her husband's leap for freedom." (If you Google "Stag's Leap," even with the possessive, a link to the winery of that name--sans possessive--pops up.  I have a sign about that too, it reads, "No good story ever started over a bowl of salad".... I'll leave you to take that leap.

Stag's Leap was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Penned while/after going through her own divorce. Fab interview about it in the Huffington Post.

 Did Sharon dash off notes before? Scribble them during? Crunch them in anger? Frustration? Maybe even hurl them in anger? Were they--those reminder notes--tear stained? How many other ran through the wash? Dryer Confetti?

While searching for the origin of that Sharon Olds quote, I googled "folded note" and up popped a post by John Findura called "Simple Twists of Fate."  The "note" in it turned out to be a folded doctor's note in his father's pocket when he went for his induction physical. His father didn't want to go to Vietnam and fight, he wanted to be a teacher. Though the contents of the note wasn't revealed in the post, I imagine whatever was in that note determined his fate. 

Notes of mine that spring to mind are not all on paper. Some are: to-do lists, story ideas, groceries to buy. Others are piles of stuff mounded and waiting on my desk, the work bench, heaped in the basement closet. More are "want tos" "bucket list" items, waiting...

The mounds of stuff, the lists, the bag of notes can be promises...but are also, often weights. Grounding? Or pinning us down? To keep us from flying? Or keep us from flying away?

What if we pick one from the pile. Uncrinkle it. Spread it out flat. Consider it, and then . . . 

Unfold Fate Playlist:

 

My Necessary Evil . . . IS IT YOURS?

I wish company was coming! (But not for the reason you may think . . .) Papers are stacking—spilling—off the dining room table, again. . . The potted plants are dying—dead . . . I still haven’t sewn the tassel back on that throw pillow.

Come visit! 

Not because I like or miss you--which I may or may not--but because:  I NEED A DEADLINE!

My friend Shona Skyped me last week. I could hardly understand her because she had pins in her mouth and one foot on the sewing machine pedal. I told her I couldn’t hear her for all the noise, but she didn’t stop sewing. She couldn’t; she was on a deadline. She just had to get those new shades made "Today!" (No matter that they’d needed making for months already, or that the windows were curtained) I didn’t fuss, "Shut that thing off and talk to me!” I turned up my volume and carried on while she sewed. 

THOU SHALT NOT INTERFERE WITH DEADLINES

Were you one of those who did your homework right after school? In the bus on the way home? Typed and proofread your term papers weeks before they were due? Studied a-little-every-day instead of cramming? If you are, click off NOW! This post is not for you.

Admittedly, not all deadlines carry the same heft. A deadline is, after all, just a date on the calendar. A “suggestion.” Less significant perhaps, than the suggested sell-by date on milk cartons.  

Gulping sour milk is one consequence I won't risk again.

Gulping sour milk is one consequence I won't risk again.

For a deadline to count it must carry CONSEQUENCES!!!!!!!

For the past while or so, for the first time in forever, I haven't had a writing deadline. I was free! Free! Free! to write what I wanted, when I wanted.

No one to answer to.

No one waiting, wanting, needing—expecting a word from me. No guilt over not writing what I was “supposed to be” writing.         

 

What joy!

What a joke!

All that writing freedom, what did it get me? NOTHING!

I’m A Deadline Junkie.

I LOVE DEADLINES! I NEED DEADLINES! (Didn’t know how much until they were gone Whoa-ohh-o-ohhhh...)

Sure, Deadlines are stressful. Deadlines make us crazy. But, having a deadline is better than NOTHING . . . 

paula.jpg

 I comfort myself with the thought that I'm not alone in my need.

Paula Danziger, beloved author of such perennial favorites as The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, The Amber Brown series (ongoing, thanks to her close friends, Elizabeth Levy and Bruce Coville, who channel Paula as they write new books), and The United Tates of America—my personal favorite because it reminds me of the punster-scrap booker, Paula. 

Paula—was a self-professed DEADLINE PUSHER-AVOIDER!

Maybe it was the rebel in Paula. Maybe it was the kid in Paula. But, she would do almost anything to avoid writing. Yet, in spite of herself, Paula wrote and published more than 30 books, with more in the works when she died. 

How did Paula make herself sit down and write???

By setting “mini” deadlines with consequences & rewards!

However it came to pass, pre-Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Paula and Bruce Coville, devised the Phone-A-Friend Method to hold each other accountable. (Maybe, like Paula, prolific award-winning author Bruce Coville is a Deadline Avoider. Hopefully I’ll get to ask him one day.)

We’d always call each other and read what we were working on.
— Bruce on their "Phone-A-Friend" Method

What Bruce didn’t say in that article, but Paula shared, is that the consequence she and Bruce set each other was a fine. Not just any piddly fine either. They set a fine that hit both die-hard Democrats where it hurt. The fine for not meeting their daily writing goal was a donation payable to the Republican Party. (Read more in the Bruce said in the Publisher’s Weekly article announcing the revival of Amber Brown. )

They set a fine that hit both die-hard Democrats where it hurt. 

They set a fine that hit both die-hard Democrats where it hurt. 

Beyond these daily deadlines, Paula dangled proverbial carrots to give her something, beyond the satisfaction of words on the page, to strive toward. Paula’s favorite brand of carrot was amber, as in amber jewelry. She’d spot a bracelet or ring she liked, buy it for herself and then give it to her editor, the late Margaret Frith, to “hold” under strict orders NOT TO RETURN IT until Paula met her deadline. Judging by the number of gorgeous amber pieces Paula wore, it worked—most of the time . . . prior to writing this, I asked Susan Kochan, Senior Editor at Putnam, who worked with both Margaret and Paula about this. Margaret Firth confirmed adding, “It didn't always work - they were often late - but who knows how late they would have been without that carrot dangling”

It didn’t always work - they were often late - but who knows how late they would have been without that carrot dangling
— Margaret Firth on Paula's "Reward" Method

Don’t ask me why it’s taken me this long to realize it, but, now I know: Deadlines were my necessary evil. 

So, in keeping with Paula & Bruce's Phone-A-Friend, I've I partnered up with my writing pal, Marty to devise our own "Dangling Carrot" Method: . Each Thursday we set ourselves an assignment and a deadline by which it must be completed—Or Else . . .  (Fill in your own blank, Dear Reader. Our consequence is of no consequence to you.)

Oh sure, we tried to cheat. What self-respecting Deadline Pusher wouldn’t? We had to test the boundaries:

 Marty sent me a whinny note about how busy she was, blah, blah, blah….

I sent her one back, sort of letting her off the hook, but not, buy saying, the assignment didn't have to be good, it just had to be sent… (Okay, so maybe in it I did try to lay groundwork for Deadline Delay by mentioning Internet connectivity issues and blackouts we’d been having.)

Marty and I both called “bull” and held ourselves and each other accountable. And it worked.  So far, we’ve met our Deadlines. And, we’re tickled pink* with the results. 

Deadlines: Love um! Hate um! Need um!

Set One! You might be glad you did . . . 

“The Necessary Evil” Playlist:

 “Amber Brown is Tickled Pink  is one of the new Amber Browns by Liz & Bruce channeling Paula.

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