Encouraging Myself

by Ananya Ridenour

The Endless To-Do List

I have been having difficulty getting the important things done, both in my professional life and in my creative writing. I’m unable to finish the bigger, more involved tasks, and the smaller tasks take longer to complete than I expect. I move from one thing to another as inspiration takes over, whether it’s a new idea for a story or a better process for my professional career. Consequently, even if I’m able to check a minor thing off on my endless “to-do” list, the big picture items evade me. I’m frustrated. I miss the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a project.

Time & Focus

In my professional life, I’m able to do the jobs I’m assigned and knock them out in a hurry. However, the projects that don’t have a deadline—such as coming up with ways to improve my processes, determine the best use of my resources, and cut delivery times—never leave my to-do list.

When it comes to creative writing, I have a box filled with story ideas jotted down on scraps of paper, napkins, and torn magazine covers. I hop from one idea to the other, going wherever my imagination takes me. Although I want to honor the muse and allow the creativity to flow freely, I’m not getting much accomplished.

Time and Focus

Why is it I never have time for the things I must  get done, yet miraculously find time for other things? The answer is time and focus. Instead of allowing myself to be distracted, I need to set blocks of time to focus on the big things I want to accomplish. Jumping from item to item is unproductive.

There is a saying that my coworkers have. The phrase comes from the character “Ron Swanson” on the television show Parks and Recreation:

Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.

While the saying is humorous, there is a lot of wisdom in it. My new philosophy is:

Allow the Muse to Play, But Keep Moving Forward

If the muse hits, I can’t ignore it. I need to allow time for the dreams that will eventually become a novel or a new method. But instead of stopping my current work in progress whenever I’m struck with a new idea, I plan to take notes—even if they are on the back of a napkin—and put them aside. I know the sense of accomplishment I’ll feel when I finally finish a large project will propel me on to the next endeavor.


Ananya and Brett Ridenour, Authors

Ananya and Brett Ridenour, Authors

Ananya Ridenour is part of a husband and wife team that are partners both in life and writing. Their relationship and writing have evolved to become what it is today, a collaboration of support, ideas, and dreams. Ananya’s other passions include traveling, archaeology, and jigsaw puzzles. Brett loves video gaming, sewing, cooking, and movies. Ananya and Brett have made a commitment to help others with their program, Storyteller’s Ethos, in which they will donate a portion of their proceeds from their novels to various charities that enhance the advancement and passions of others. Ananya and Brett have three children, two dogs, and the occasional squirrel that likes to run along the fence.

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2 thoughts on “Encouraging Myself

  1. My 94 year old Aunt Marion reminded me once about my mother’s lack of focus. “Your mother would start washing the dishes, then go comb her hair, come back and start vacuuming, go back to the dishes – all day long, she’d do this.” It’s either genetic or learned; I don’t know which, but I AM my mother in this respect. It’s hard to know whether to fight this tendency or go with the flow. I imagine Aristotle’s “mean between extremes” should kick in every so often.
    In regard to the “To Do” list, I just change the tense of my list’s title and call it a “DID Do” list. (My list could always be a little bit bigger, I’ll admit. Sometimes I have to cheat to make myself feel better.)
    I can totally relate to this “issue” and am taking your point to focus to heart. If that doesn’t work out, I think the best solution might be to go all out and just call this characteristic a “gift”.

  2. Nice article and a good reminder to stay focused. I’ve tried bullet journals, accountability partners, self-imposed deadlines, all kinds of things. They all work to some degree, but it’s still a struggle.

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