🌸 Emily’s tasks journal

Now that the insomnia journal is a success, let’s see if I can also lose tasks anxiety — and get some of them done — by using journaling.

Some background and my current thinking on the journaling format:

  • I have work tasks, that I do at work, and that I mostly won’t talk about because I don’t have a problem with them. But I do have a huge problem with things like “go to a store” or “do maintenance for my startup” or “message a person” or “buy tickets for an upcoming thing”.

  • I’ll be recording things postfactum. I don’t want to use a journal as a way to force myself to do anything.

  • Purposefully not putting this into the “Akrasia” category because I also don’t want to lock myself into a certain mindset/mold regarding potential solutions.

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:yellow_circle: sat 27

I didn’t do any tasks yesterday (hence not green), but I also didn’t feel any anxiety about tasks (hence not red).

Factors:

  • Spent the whole day with couchsurfers and then at a name day party

:rice_ball: today

Some of the tasks that are on my mind today:

  1. I have to post a water bottle that the couchsurfers forgot when leaving.

    • What if it takes longer than two days to arrive.
    • What if it gets damaged while shipping.
    • What if I’m supposed to send it in a box but I don’t have a box.
    • (see: Indecision journaling together)
    • Also: generally it’s hard for me to feel like something is “not my problem”. If my water bottle got damaged, I would probably feel dejected for the whole day.
  2. I also have to post a backpack that previous couchsurfers forgot at the tram stop.

    • What if it gets damaged while shipping.
    • What if I’m supposed to send it in a box but I don’t have a box.
    • Maybe I can just wait for a week and then I’m actually going to be in the [city where I’m supposed to ship it to].
      • It will be a hassle though. I’d rather ship it.
  3. I want to update the Notion table where I keep track of all couchsurfers I hosted.

    • I don’t want to. No idea why.
      • Maybe because I have an aversion to using my laptop in general nowadays? Also no idea why.
        • Maybe it’s because I’m supposed to use my laptop to do tasks?
  4. I’m supposed to look at the work laptop (the other work laptop) and see whether I got any messages.

    • Those messages are going to be about things I have to do.
    • And I know it will take me three weeks to eventually do those things, so I don’t even want to look.
  5. I should update some certificates.

    • It will take some time because I forgot how to do it.
    • But even if I do it, I’ll have to do it later again, and again, and I’ll keep forgetting about it and will feel bad again later.
    • [shame?]

The overall effect from all of this is that I feel… not even anxious, more like “miserable”. Can’t go out and enjoy life.

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If I understand correctly, you have lots of responsibilities, and they weight down on your life; you cannot enjoy your free time.

Did you try planning your day; either manually with a static calendar, or by using an app like reclaim.ai or SkedPal?

I personally feel that they allowed me to be more intentional about my time. If it’s not scheduled, it will never happen; and if I didn’t schedule it, it means I didn’t really care in the first place or it’ll come later. The time that is free, is really free.

(maybe I’m missing the mark, but that’s worth a recommendation :slightly_smiling_face: )

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For many tasks, I can’t do them even if I schedule them or make a reminder. I just feel afraid of them. Being reminded is not enough. Sometimes I actually have to buy a pack of cigarettes to gain the courage to do some tasks. This might change once I get ADHD meds.

An additional problem with scheduling is that I don’t yet have a routine for meals. So there’s no block of time when I know for sure I’ll be available.

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:red_circle: sun 28

I was anxious about tasks and my mood was spoiled because of that.

However, I did two tasks!

  1. “I have to post a water bottle that the couchsurfers forgot when leaving.”

    • Telling a friend that “I have to do this and I can’t” helped.
    • Writing here also helped, I think.
    • “Not my problem” also also helped.
  2. “I also have to post a backpack that previous couchsurfers forgot at the tram stop.”

    • Ditto.

:radio_button: mon 29

I don’t remember.

:yellow_circle: tue 30

Didn’t do any tasks, but also didn’t have anxiety about tasks. My salary arrived. Bought Zelda TotK, played till midnight.


Maybe once June begins, I can start going to coffee shops again and using that time to write in these threads. Because I don’t like that I’m not writing here.

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:yellow_circle: wed 31, thu 1, fri 2

Nothing got done, but also I didn’t feel anxiety, so it’s a yellow.

It’s interesting how much easier it is for me to spend time productively at work. I write tasks into a notebook, most of them don’t take much time, most of them don’t require bravery, I end up doing at least half of them.

If I could just do the same for my non-work related tasks, my life would be better. I wouldn’t have an empty fridge and potential emergencies looming over me.

What are the potential factors?

  1. Tasks at work are new. Life tasks have years of baggage attached. I’m not just “failing to reply to support emails” — I’ve been failing yesterday, three months ago, and will be failing in the future even if I succeed today. There’s no feeling that I can solve something permanently.

    • As a side note, I feel like somebody is telling me “to do a thing, you just have to do it every day, starting from “right now””. I don’t believe it. Eh.
  2. I don’t care about tasks at work. I care about eg. being able to say “I was doing something, here’s proof”. This kind of motivation doesn’t translate to life tasks, I guess.

  3. I think I feel much better about optional tasks / shared responsibility tasks, than I do about mandatory tasks. Outside of work, many tasks feel mandatory. At work, many tasks somehow feel optional. Maybe shared responsibility plays a very strong role here? I’m the only person who can buy groceries for myself. If I don’t do it, nobody will. But if I go on vacation for a month, life at work will go on.

  4. At work, I’m in the office. Bright, spacious, people around. I think I would feel unmotivated to do the same tasks if I was at home…? But maybe not. It’s hard to say. And maybe more importantly, I’m surrounded by people who are also working on similar tasks. It’s not like coworking.

There are probably more factors. It feels like a very tangled topic.

I also feel like it would benefit from more concrete examples. I like limiting scope. “My goal is to stop having insomnia, other stuff is out of scope” feels nice. And also concrete examples are much easier to analyze.

(I’m writing this from a gas station cafe.)

Update: I don’t think I’m lazy. I like doing things. I think it’s more that I’m simultaneously scared; confused; haven’t figured out what motivates me; possibly have different motivation factors than other people do; and possibly got stuck trying/believing things that don’t work, due to bad memory and the somewhat unusual situation of not having people around b/c moving all the time, dropping out of university, family is in another country, mostly working on projects without external oversight (either my own, or as a founder, or solo dev, or whatever).

Update 2: note to self: once things become clearer, I’d like to use numbered factors & “which I think are most important”, like I did for insomnia.

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i think this is why i would be unable to live alone. going to the grocery store every week together with my flatmate is great. knowing i don’t ever have to clean the whole flat on my own is great. (it also helps that we’re not nagging each other as much as my mother would be nagging me about cleaning. if i don’t tidy the living room every week, he usually doesn’t mention anything; and it’s clear and somehow always been doable that when guests come over we do our respective binge-cleaning always just in time.)

do you think finding a flatmate could be realistic and beneficial for you? i don’t have any experience of living with strangers, but i can definitely recommend moving in with friends who you already know. (obviously there can still be issues and i’ve always been very lucky with my flatmates, but it’s at least much less of a gamble than moving in with a complete stranger.)

do you think finding a flatmate could be realistic and beneficial for you?

I don’t have friends in Warsaw & finding friends is currently not even on my radar.

This said, I had flatmates in Warsaw for two months and I don’t recall being particularly better at tasks. In fact, it’s possible that I was worrying less about tasks… but simultaneously doing even less of them.

Groceries and flat maintenance are significantly better when I’m around people, that’s true. I enjoy going to the grocery store with people. Or generally running around the city with people.

I think… if I had flatmates, I would probably feel better about like 50% of the tasks? Especially small ones? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’ll keep it in mind but also I know that right now I don’t plan to do anything about the flatmate situation.

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//

Going back to concrete examples of tasks, I have a few.

Laundry

Two hours ago, I felt mild aversion to getting up and doing laundry. Why?

  1. Shame / “anticipated regret”: it’s evening now and I’m going to Krakow tomorrow morning. So there might not be enough time for the laundry to dry, which I would’ve avoided if I did it earlier.

    • (thanks to ChatGPT for telling me that it’s called “anticipated regret”)
    • Speaking of regret: I think I often feel things like “I should’ve noticed this (like my bad memory) earlier and not spent all this time trying to fix the wrong thing”. Not exactly that but maybe you get the gist. Also a kind of regret. Maybe that’s why I distract myself all the time? Zelda, binging YouTube, reading blog archives.
  2. Bed: I was lying in bed when I was thinking about it, and I have much less energy when lying in bed.

  3. Headache: I have a mild headache.

  4. Other tasks: I think I had brief flashes of “yeah, like so many other things I’m not doing” when I thought about laundry.

The important ones are (1 2) I think.

Writing down that I went to Pruszków

Today I went to a town called Pruszków. I want to write it down in my list of places I’ve been to. Again, I feel mild aversion. Why?

  1. It’s not useful to write things down.

  2. I’ll forget to maintain the list and it’ll be a dead list.

  3. Distraction: I was washing dishes. Adding Pruszków to the list would require me to use my laptop. I would get distracted and wouldn’t return to washing dishes, OR I wouldn’t even add Pruszków to the list either and would just spend some time being sucked into the laptop.

    • Oh, and I also wouldn’t want to go back to washing dishes after the task is done. (Which is what’s happening right now.)
    • NB: I’ve noticed that tasks often remind me about other tasks I should add to the mental todo list. Like “I should buy more trash bags” when throwing the trash out. And then I also kinda feel like I won’t actually do it, which feels… possibly bad? I genuinely don’t know if it it feels bad. Maybe I got very used to feeling flashes of badness all the time.
  4. Frustration: It seems that in the evening my memory becomes much worse? I had to remember the name of the town. I knew that I had it somewhere in my Telegram channel. Then I forgot the name of the Telegram channel (it’s literally “Emily”). As I was typing in the Telegram search box, I literally forgot which channel I wanted and why. This is not even a 10 second memory span.

  5. Laptop feels icky because it has emails in it.

  6. I don’t want to use my laptop because my chair height is wrong (?) and my neck and shoulders hurt when I use the laptop even for a short while.

I think the important ones are (3 4 6).

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this is also a major problem for me. i often remember things in the spur of the moment and i often feel like i need to do them absolutely right this very second, or else! and often they’re time-consuming or end up being time-consuming and so i have less time (or no time) for other things … on the other hand, if i don’t do it in the moment, i’ll either:

  • forget it, or
  • i’ll only remember it again in a suboptimal moment when i actually physically can’t do the task (away from laptop, whatever), or
  • i’ll remember to do it another time but that time i won’t have the same hyper-motivation for it, and i might even think it’s not worth doing at all (regardless if that’s “objectively” “true”)

i think this is also one of the reasons i’d be weary of a nannybot/omniminder type device. it would have to take these random-spur-of-the-moment-hyperfixations into account, otherwise it would be useless for me …

sorry, i don’t really have any tips for you, but maybe it helps a bit just to share the pain of immediate distractions.^^

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I actually have a thing that might work for me.

At work, I’m writing incoming tasks into a notebook. Then I do them. If something doesn’t get done yesterday, the next day I can choose if I want to put it on my plate today or leave it be.

There are three factors that make it work better for me than it could’ve otherwise:

  1. I don’t feel like I have to either “delete a task or else put it on today’s plate”. I don’t like deciding that I’m not going to do something ever!

  2. It’s on paper. Laptops are distracting for me. I don’t remember this fact as well as I should.

  3. It doesn’t have any space for “things I want to do in the future”. When I start recording potential future improvements, whatever I was using for tasks becomes a giant sad wishlist.

Yesterday I got another notebook and started putting non-work tasks there. I think it kinda works already. But we’ll see.

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One more thing: it’s possible that the “chain reaction” task overflow, when doing a task makes me recall another undone tasks, is actually temporary. Once I start doing more tasks, my mental backlog might become smaller and this problem would disappear.

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…I keep noticing that I’m sleepy in the evening. It’s 6pm now and I don’t want to do anything, even easy tasks like “write about X”. I just want to take a nap.

I wonder if it’s just because I wasn’t getting enough sleep for the past few days, or if it’s a general thing.

Anyway, I won’t blame myself for not being able to do tasks right now, because I’m sleepy.

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There is a natural dip in energy in the day for everyone.
It’s the best time to take a quick 20mn nap (it’s so short it doesn’t affect sleep).
Maybe you should go for it :slightly_smiling_face:?

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I always (?) feel tired after a nap so I’m currently not in the mood to try. But maybe at some point I’d want to experiment with short naps.


:yellow_circle: Jun 7

No anxiety, but also I didn’t do any icky tasks.

I had 15 tasks in my notebook. Some were easy (“write an update in the insomnia thread”), some were icky (“fill in time tracking at work” or “request an expense refund”).

Perhaps the only non-trivial tasks that I did:

  • “go to the post office” → it’s easier to do something once I’m already outside. I feel much less anxious/overwhelmed outside.

  • “buy toilet paper” → ditto.

Some reflection

It also seems right now that the biggest thing that prevents me from doing icky tasks is anxiety. I already feel anxiety right now when I’m thinking about tasks like “pay a particular debt”, and so I can’t force myself to start.

I feel somewhat guilty about only doing non-icky tasks, and worried that I’ll never manage to get myself to do icky tasks. But hey, insomnia got solved even though it seemed impossible to solve. Maybe I’ll come up with a solution for this as well.

Another thing I’m worried about is “if I write all tasks down I’ll have too many tasks”, but I think I already mentioned this. I don’t know yet if it’ll be solved by doing some long-standing tasks (“task inbox zero”), but we’ll see.

Finally, another potential tool in my toolbox could be “set up routines”. I already have a routine for laundry and for cleaning up the flat, and they work. I’d like to have more routines.

Perhaps I could be writing routine statuses here every Sunday. (Just made a calendar event for that.)

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:yellow_circle: Jun 9

Did any icky tasks get done? No.

Did some good tasks get done? Yes.

  • I went to Muji and bought things.

  • I measured chair height at home and at work, and it turned out that my home chairs are 10cm shorter. I think I need a gamer chair if I want my neck to not hurt. And also a monitor stand, actually. (…do monitor stands for iMacs actually exist? can I just use a box or smth? I don’t have money for a proper stand.)

  • I bought trash bags.

  • I found out what ZUS wanted from me.

Some reflection

The tasks notebook is useful for reminding myself about things that I can do if I’m reminded about them. Like going to Muji.

I can also use it to cope with the fact that I forget everything when I’m at the laptop. If I need to do something that involves my laptop, I should write it down first.

Interestingly, I don’t think I have this problem with my laptop at work. Maybe because it doesn’t have anything interesting or stressful. Just feels like a machine for doing work tasks. Perhaps it’d be nice to offload more things to dedicated “work machines”, although I don’t have the money for a second device anyway.

(…I do have an iMac though – maybe I should bite the bullet and kill [startup] email on my laptop? But this requires becoming more diligent about working on my startup, first. And I’m also using iMac for random coding as well so strict separation seems impossible. Sad. Anything could be better than nothing though.)

Anyway, going back to the tasks notebook. Honestly, I’m not even sure if it’s useful, but I like writing a task there and only then doing it. Trying to remember “what did I want to do a moment ago?” sucks. So I like having a notebook.

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NB: I just did an icky task (paid a bill) and I don’t feel good. Instead, I feel stressed about other bills.

There are two points here:

  1. “Just bite the bullet and you’ll feel good” is empirically wrong. (I don’t know if anybody actually said it to me, but I feel sorta as if I was supposed to believe it.)

  2. I don’t want to end up with icky tasks on my plate in the first place. Because then I feel stressed and after doing them I feel even worse.

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Went to sleep late and woke up late. Feel no energy to write an update.

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Observation: I always knew but never wrote down explicitly: some easy tasks make me scared.

Somebody from work wrote to me half an hour ago and asked to fill in time tracking (that I should’ve done two weeks ago). I’ve been scared / sick with anxiety for the past half an hour. I don’t know why. Usually I assume it’s because “something bad might happen”, but in this case I can’t think of anything bad that could happen – and still.

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:green_circle: Jun 10

One icky task got done: I paid a bill.

A few other tasks got done as well, but overall I just like writing tasks down and then marking them as done. It’s frustrating to not remember what I wanted to do – then remember – then forget again – etc. Notebooks help with that.

:yellow_circle: Jun 11

No icky tasks done. Generally wasn’t using the notebook almost at all. Spent the first half of the day w/ people. Spent the second half of the day just having no energy b/c I went to sleep late.

:red_circle: Jun 12

Feeling very anxious about two tasks (see above). I can’t even finish them today because they are quasi-work-tasks and I need handholding for them.

Some reflection

I have a legal employer and an actual employer. The legal employer sometimes asks me to do things and I completely ignore them and feel bad later when I have to do them anyway.

Potential solution:

  • Take both the legal-work and the actual-work laptops to the office. Yeah, my backpack will get heavier. But then I’ll be able to do both parts of “work” at the actual work and not after hours, which should be good.

Some reflection 2

After noticing that “hey, I’m probably not supposed to feel scared about simple things” it became more obvious that I’m getting scared about simple things and that it’s actually a little bit of a debilitating condition.

Right now I just want to somehow make it a part of my identity so that I wouldn’t be ashamed of it. Like, “yeah, I didn’t do this task, because I was scared of it”. Competent people can be scared of simple things. (Typing this feels wrong.)

But there might be other solutions as well. ADHD meds. Maybe something else.

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