We Work Really Hard for People Who “Don’t Work”

by Sarah

Neither Joseph nor I have a standard paid job right now.  We are each the central organizer of a loosely arranged mosaic of paid and unpaid projects (ahem, house-building!), each with different responsibilities, timelines, and collaborators.  This is a pretty awesome way to live, and I am grateful that we get to do it.  And also it’s sometimes surprisingly hard.  Hard to keep track of everything that we are doing, hard to know if I’ve worked “enough,” if I’ve really “earned” a day off…

Which is really what I’m working with.  Externally, our main project is: How to build a tiny house from green-ish materials.  But internally the question that I am working on, and have been for a few years, is: How to work and take care of myself at the same time.

When I start getting anxious about if I’m doing enough, if I deserve the life that I have, I find it useful to get really concrete:  What needs to get done?  Okay, but what really needs to get done?  And then when I finish the “really needs to get done,” it’s probably a good time for a break.  It’s been easier to do that kind of prioritizing for Joseph and my shared projects, and we’ve been using an (almost) fun system to keep track.

We bought brightly-colored dry-erase markers and are using one of the large sets of sliding glass doors in our house as a big to-do list.  We have sections for each of the projects we are working on together:
Seeds with Wings (our tiny house build and this website)
Tumbleweed (coordination and reporting for the group build)
Caretaking, (the sheep, and more, on the property where we live and care-take)
Home, (settling in, upkeep, gardening)
We also have a section for ongoing Wellbeing activities (though that section has gotten woefully faded lately).  It’s a huge relief to me just to have the items up on the big colorful to-do list.  I feel calmer knowing that nothing is falling through the cracks.

On the same double doors we marked out a monthly and weekly calendar with masking tape.  On Monday morning we sit down together, sometimes for up to an hour, and fill in:
First, appointments and events
Then, the most important tasks that must happen this week
Next, the people we need to call, email, or see
Finally, errands, yoga classes, and other details

I don’t enjoy the Monday planning sessions.  They tend to bring up that feeling of overwhelm – that I want to do everything, that there isn’t enough time for all of it, that I will fall short in some way by not getting to some project or some person I want to connect with.  But, I also feel better all week for having done the planning.  To wake up in the morning and know what I planned to do today, what was the most important thing to make sure to get to today, is a relief and gives the day shape and a feeling of completion at the end.

Do you have any fun, or even just slightly enjoyable, ways to keep your projects organized? If you work for yourself, or even if you don’t, how do you relax even when there is always more work to do?  Please do share in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “We Work Really Hard for People Who “Don’t Work”

  1. I use a site called “Good to do” which I love. I heard of it after reading a book called “bit literacy” a must-read for anyone struggling to organize priorities and information in the “information age”. The down side is it is online so you need electricity and internet (or a smart phone) to use. I am also not sure how it work for sharing to-dos as you do with Joseph (though you could both use it). But here is what I love about it:

    1. It records all my aspirations so I know they won’t get lost
    2. I get the satisfaction of “checking” a box when something is done. This is VERY important to me (especially when the long to-do list feels overwhelming it is awesome to see how much I have already accomplished).
    3. It keeps track of all my “done” to dos which is awesome in case I can’t remember if I did something. I can just search it for a word such as “dentist” and it will pull up all past and future to-dos with that word in it. This leads to number 4. It is searchable.
    5. I can email myself to-dos so if I think of something away from my computer or if a to-do is in the form of an email (like “respond to this email”) I can forward it to the day I want to do it on.
    6. I can look at my to-dos one day at a time, one week at a time, or one month at a time which helps me plan my time.

    I could go on and on but I do enjoy meetings and getting overwhelmed. I think my least favorite part of projects is the tail end or the middle when you aren’t sure what to jump into next. Meetings always help me prioritize and get clarity so I usually feel recharged afterwards.

  2. Hi Sarah! I found a new online system this year that I love – workflowy.com. On the surface it seems like a bulleted to do list, but it has great functionality – search, assign tasks by date or name, hide crossed off items, and more. Great simple videos to explain how to maximize functionality. I like it because it allows me to have all of my to do items on one list, organized under project headings, rather than organized by date. I can print my entire list, but also sort on the to do items for the week or day and print a separate list for that time frame. For me, that cuts way down on the overwhelm – prioritizing in advance and only having to look at what’s immediately in front of me, but also being able to plan longer term by having the whole list. You can also share your list with other people and can edit and add to each other’s lists, etc. Definitely enjoyable and keeps me sane.

    I am enjoying keeping up on your life through your posts! Hope to see you both in November. xxoo

    1. Thanks, Lauren, for that great idea and for keeping up on our lives! I will definitely check it out, and I like forward so much to seeing you and your family in November. Lots of love, Sarah

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