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How To Feel Like A Failure By Accomplishing More

December 5, 2016

Hey Dad, can I stay out an extra half hour past curfew tonight?

That would put you home at what, 11:30? Okay.

Could we make it an hour then?

It happens all the time. Kids are conditioned, it seems, to keep asking questions until they get a no. It’s really frustrating as a parent. You want to give your kids things. You want to help them. You want to give that extra cookie to a 7 year old, or that extra half hour on the X-Box to a 13 year old, or that extra time past curfew to a 17 year old.

“One more thing.” It’s not just kids that do it. As someone who struggles with ADHD, I love lists. I make lists to keep me on track. To give me minor accomplishiments when I can mark something off. To give me an idea of what my current workload is.

But, that “one more thing” concept that kids have, we as adults also tend to do it. We keep tacking things onto the end of our list. The TODO list never becomes a TO DONE list. (Okay, that title makes no sense, but you get the idea.)

Toby Keith is one of my favorite country singers. He has a song called My List. It includes the lyrics:

Under an old brass paperweight is my list of things to do today
Go to the bank and the hardware store, put a new lock on the cellar door
I cross ’em off as I get ’em done but when the sun is set
There’s still more than a few things left I haven’t got to yet

We, the list makers, condemn ourselves to a never ending line of tasks stretching out to infinity. And what are we leaving out? What is the Faustian bargain we’ve struck? Again, truth from a country song,

Go for a walk, say a little prayer
Take a deep breath of mountain air
Put on my glove and play some catch
It’s time that I make time for that
Wade the shore and cast a line
Look up a long lost friend of mine
Sit on the porch and give my girl a kiss
Start livin’, that’s the next thing on my list

My lists are supposed to help me accomplish things. They are supposed to make me more productive. But, at times, I’m trying to create a hole in the ocean. I pull out my cup of accomplishments only to see the sea rush in to fill the void. If I’m good about writing things down, I end the day with a longer list than I started with. That’s not success. That’s the opposite of success.

This year has become incredibly busy. My client’s infrastructure is growing, where three years ago I had one site and two lines of business, now I have four sites and 80 lines of business to keep track of. I continue to volunteer with the boy scouts, but they’ve now started to work on advancement. There are literally hundreds of requirements that I need to help them keep track of. In addition to a house full of teenagers, we added an 18 month old baby. Believe it or not, a baby is way more work than a teenager.

So, what’s the solution? How do I stop feeling like a failure because my list seems to grow and grow and never get smaller?

I make the list smaller.

One more piece of lyric from Toby Keith,

Wouldn’t change the course of fate if cuttin’ the grass just had to wait
‘Cause I’ve got more important things like pushin’ my kid on the backyard swing
I won’t break my back for a million bucks I can’t take to my grave
So why put off for tomorrow what I could get done today

As we approach the new year, I planning to make non-resolutions. I’m planning to cut back and focus on doing a few things well instead of doing a lot of things. . .less well.

First up? This year, at least at the start, I’ll take my monthly Masons and weekly Toastmasters meetings off the calendar. I’ll look at more as I get further along in the year. There are many good things. But, like too many sugary sweets, too many good things can make up miserable. 

My list is getting shorter already.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

  1. Patricia Nelson permalink

    Oh I needed this today. I’m up early to get more things off my list. But I too suffer a little ADD so I’m distracted already. And I never seem to get to some of the things that I say I really want to do. I took several monthly commitments off our schedule for this year. But I need to prioritize better. Back to the helpful, important or crucial sorting system or maybe John and Juli’s good, better or best. Thanks Rodney for the reminder to stop and smell the flowers.

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