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To-do list often overshadows the ta-dah list


Last updated 10/17/2019 at 12:03am | View PDF

I was going through my inbox the other day, trying to clear out some old emails. This is some of what I found.

• Recipes from Epicurious for 63 work lunches that don’t need refrigeration.

• A link to download photos from Ainsley’s summer theater camp.

• Eddie Bauer’s reminder that I have a $20 reward to spend by Oct. 7.

• A request from a student looking for feedback on her work.

• An invitation to pitch in a retirement gift for one of Ainsley’s former preschool teachers. The deadline was May 19.

• And a note from my eye doctor — “You’re overdue for your eye exam!”

This is why I dread going too deep into my inbox. A few minutes glancing at it adds a dozen more items to my daily to-do list.

It’s not that I don’t want to respond to these emails or take the required action. (I mean, who couldn’t use 63 new lunch recipes?) I just keep putting them off until that mythical morning or afternoon when I won’t have as much on my plate.

But when I see them sitting there, unattended, I feel defeated and inadequate. And I can’t stop thinking about what I would tell Ainsley if she found herself in mood like this.

“Snap out of it!” I’d say.

Wait, no. That’s what my mother would say to me. Ainsley requires a gentler hand.

“I know you feel overwhelmed right now,” I’d tell her. “But even though you have some things you need to do, you have to remember how much you’ve already accomplished!”

Focusing on our accomplishments — big and small — is something most of us are not very good at (except for the people who send out really long Christmas letters listing every accolade they’ve received in the past year).

Our focus is always on what has to be done — and sometimes for good reason. If we don’t finish writing articles or making sales calls or suturing incisions or whatever it is we have to do, we could face serious repercussions.

The answer here — as is the case so often in life — is finding a balance, which often involves a shift in perspective.

I’ll practice on some easy ones first.

Instead of thinking “How will I ever get through the giant stack of articles I’ve saved from the Tribune?” I’ll reframe the question.

“I’ve read so many wonderful articles. I wonder how many more I’ll be able to enjoy.”

The difference is subtle, but it’s there.

Instead of lamenting the muscle tone I have failed to develop by doing the requisite lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and planks, I’ll focus on how many days I’ve walked for 30 minutes or more this year (149!) — and the excellent job I’ve done logging them in my planner.

Most of us have bigger achievements, too, that we could celebrate, perhaps for professional accomplishments or volunteer service. I work in an industry that likes to recognize writers and editors and photographers with annual awards. We’ve hung some of the plaques we’ve received on our walls, but too many sit in a pile in the corner.

Why don’t we make the time to display them? Maybe we feel silly or self-indulgent. We all learned as kids that no one likes a braggart or a show off.

We’re grown up now, though. Hopefully our self-esteem is strong enough that we can join our friends and colleagues in celebrating their success and share ours with them in return.

So I guess we need to hang up our plaques. Just as soon as I take care of those emails!

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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