Realizing The Mess I Am

There was a moment when I met my future in-laws for the first time where I was struck with how little I knew about anything.

I’d never met a family that played Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit for fun and could carry on a conversation, intelligently, on any topic. And there I was, with even less to say than usual. They seemed to like me anyway, so it didn’t bother me much, but when I thought about one day having my own family, the thoughts came back. Someone would be depending on me. Looking for knowledge/advice from me and unless my kid wanted to know how many Green Goblins there were, I had nothing to offer.

Rather than be depressed about it, I was motivated to make myself smarter. (This was a milestone for me because my life before consisted of getting by. I honed the skill of being as smart as I had to be well in school. So well, I ranked square in the middle of my graduating class) I read a lot more and took an interest in things I never bothered to care about. Stuff I think most would consider common knowledge. I guess this is what they call maturing.

So, recently, I’ve been thinking about this whole writing career and the same feeling from meeting my in-laws resurfaced. But instead of not feeling smart, I was thinking, “Andrew, you’re just a big mess.”

Just getting by was not limited to school, it’s basically been my mantra for my whole life.

Well, there are lots of people writing and the ones breaking through to success are not just getting by. I’ve read about what these people are doing. How they manage it all. But when I give it a try my successes were very short-term. And on top of all that, normal, everyday stuff around the house was falling to the wayside. I was doing tons of stuff and getting nothing accomplished at the same time.

The frustration lead me to an experiment.

All signs (Kait Nolan leading the charge) pointed to lists as the way to get my stuff done. And since I was failing at lists my personal life I decided to try one for an established routine at work. I checked my assignments, wrote them all down and went to work. I got my work done (no surprise) but with a list in front of me, I got it done a bit faster.

With that little success motivating me, I made a very small after work to-do list. First thing I noticed was I’d forgotten half the tasks I’d written down, but once I saw them, I immediately got to work on them.

Just like work work.

It may not seem like much, but remembering to vacuum the A/C filter, getting the dirty laundry together and making a sandwich for my lunch at work was a big deal to me.

Then it hit me.

All the goals that I thought were small and manageable, weren’t. I was telling my brain to go from one lifelong behavior, to a drastically different one overnight. No wonder I crashed and burned. How could I have the schedule of a highly organized person, when I can’t even remember to vacuum a filter?

Guess I’m a slow learner.

I’m pretty much starting from scratch. For me, having a writing career (Or pretty much any life goal) won’t happen if there’s still chaos all around me, so organizing my life is a must. It won’t be easy to unlearn how I’ve lived, but if I can increase my knowledge in my twenties, then I can get organized in my thirties.

14 comments on “Realizing The Mess I Am

  1. I think you’ve made an important realization–it’s not that these individual tasks are difficult or whatever, it’s changing how you think about everything which IS a big task and does take a while to sort of get into the groove of. It takes anywhere from three weeks to three months (probably closer to the truth) to establish new habits. And you’re definitely on the right path.

    • Definitely an interesting path.

      I could see it taking three months. I’d love to get to a point where everyday things just need maintenance. It would certainly be less stressful and leave more time for writing.

  2. It takes awhile to change those habits, as Kait said. It also takes perseverance, because there will be times where you want to just stop it and go back to the old ways. Because, you know, that’s easier. I’m speaking from experience here. I’m kind of weird because I’m SO organized at work, but I’m a mess at home. One of my biggest problems is that I feel GUILTY when I’m writing sometimes because the house needs attention. My husband does the majority of the housework and it’s not really fair to him because he works so hard. I think if I made lists, I could get more organized instead of looking around and saying “Hmmm, I need to do SOMETHING”. I think the biggest difference between you and me is that I don’t get quite as stressed out about it as you do. So work on those lists, Andrew, but give yourself time to get used to it and don’t overwhelm yourself. Soon you will find that you’re much less overwhelmed WITH the lists. 🙂 And I promise I will work on lists, too, so I’ll be right there with you, changing old habits. Deal?

    • Deal!

      I do get stressed because I’m very organized at work too. I get a lot done in eight hours, so I should be able to apply it at home. I also think if I kept up with chores more, they wouldn’t take so long when I get around to doing them. And then maybe I wouldn’t dread doing them so much.

  3. I recommend Flylady for teaching you about routines.

    I am one of the least organized people on the planet. But I realized yesterday that knowing how to does not get it done alone. If i want a clean house like i say I do then I have to actually clean the house,

    I have a few small routines i do daily. As well as implementing the “do it now” directive. I am the best at saying “do it later” when doing it now only takes 5 minutes.

    • I’ve heard of Flylady from Susan Bischoff and I know she likes it too.

      Yeah, “do it later” is a problem. I like giving myself a few things to do each day. If I get it all done, great. But if not, I’ll ask myself why so I can adjust for the next day.

  4. Sounds like you’re making some important strides! I’m kind of in the same boat as you. A horribly disorganized person trying to organize their life so that they can do all the things they need to do AND have time for writing. It’s hard work, especially because it runs somewhat opposite to how we operate, but I have faith that we can both get there. I think the key is to cut ourselves some slack sometimes, too – not beat ourselves up because we fell down on one thing, just try to learn from it and do better tomorrow.

    • Yes, that’s the right attitude. So far I’ve only made it through one day of checking everything off my list, but for the other days I try to figure out what went wrong so I don’t do it again.

  5. Andrew, can I be a mess with you? I can’t even remember to buy cheese at the grocery store if I don’t write it down and cross it off a list. If my mom calls to tell me something important, like what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I ask her to email me. If I have a thought about anything that I need to remember in 1 minute, I write it down. You are not alone.

    Oh, and BTW, I will never play Trivial Pursuit with my in-law-equivalents.

  6. We joke around, but seriously, my in-laws know everything.

    I’m getting into listing. It’s nice having my day planned out and it feels good to see everything I did at the end of the day.

  7. Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing.

  8. […] Andrew Mocete realizes he’s in a mess, but he’ll get out […]

  9. Keep plugging away. Try smaller tasks too, or breaking larger ones into smaller parts.
    Also, I like including at least one ridiculously easy thing on my list, so I know at least something will get done, and that will push me on to the next thing….

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