15 Comments
Dec 20, 2021Liked by Heather Havrilesky

Weirdly I have the opposite problem; I don’t know how to have goals anymore. I went from super-overachiever-perfectionist to barely able to live, thanks to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I slowly had to discard all my goals and evaluate what really mattered; my family. Any bits of energy were for talking to them, hanging out, paying attention. After a decade I’m creeping towards better health but it’s really hard to have goals again. Partly I’m terrified they’ll be taken away again, and partly I’ve grown so used to living small. Thanks for the goal guidance Heather.

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Doomscrolling and comment section-ing are definitely my self-harms of choice. I wonder how much time ive devoted to cultivating cortisol.

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Okay, so I've been thinking about this a LOT this year. Too many things I want to do, too little time. "Decluttering" to address this "hoarding problem" (such a clever framing!) is clearly necessary.

Meanwhile: I have a disconnect with the argument (seen a bit in the Atlantic article and ... just, around in the Zeitgeist) that confronting your mortality will HELP you, emotionally, cut through overwhelm and prioritize. The implication is almost that it is EASIER for people to come to terms with their mortality as a whole than with their current limited bandwidth -- and that is ... simply not my experience!

Admittedly, I might be going through a mild existential crisis (...yes...), but the unwelcome reminder of my mortality is EXACTLY what I feel lurking underneath, when I'm freaking out over my impossible goals list. Literally every time I try to pare down my goal list (because I'm failing at keeping up with half of it), I'm DEEPLY ANGRY THAT I ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TIME and there are absolutely things I want to do that I won't do before I die. I hate having to cut things out for ... EXACTLY THIS REASON; it's a little TOO REAL.

Anyone else have this??

It's been so big for me this year; and whenever I describe it to people, it feels like they smile patronizingly at me like I'm a two-year-old who's crying 'cause she can't eat all the ice cream in the world (slightly fair), but man -- the experience is one of GRIEF. Full-on grief, sometimes.

Cutting out goals from my list is killing off futures and, yes, admitting my mortality -- and that layer is exactly what MAKES it sad. "Not only do you not have time to do this now...but you may not have time to do it ever!" is not exactly an easy balm to my soul ...

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Burkeman's book "4 thousand weeks" may be the best "self-help" book I've ever read, a worthy read for anyone struggling with this. Another great point of his ... remember perspective ... nothing you do really matters that much in the universal scheme of things. Although it may sound depressing, it is also liberating in terms of choosing goals that are truly worthy to yourself.

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Thoughtful words and de-cluttering "exercise". Does it, I wonder, get easier with time? Does that matter?

Family, friends, writing, reading are what matter to me. Apart from practical goals (try to stay employed and share abundance), I've been peeling off my sluggish perfectionism

and looking for harmony in discord and finding simplicity in clutter. Do less, I'll say in 2022 as I close tabs on my browser and clear off my desk. Thanks for this one, Heather.

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Ah, this is why I love bullet journalling. It makes it very clear what I'm actually doing and what I'm putting off. It really forces you to hack down the to-do list. (NB: I'm talking about the basic system, not the OTT version you find on Instagram)

After years of asking "why can't I get this thing done?" I've started asking "why don't I want to do this thing?" which is much quicker at getting to the root of a problem.

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This is perfect timing, having raked myself over the coals again last night for not being focused enough or achieving enough. But the truth is that I’m always trying to divide my attention across far too much, so of course nothing gets actually done. I’ve sat down before and written out everything I believe I “should” be prioritizing and it is easily two dozen things at any given moment. Every time I try to reset myself to a core handful, but they keep creeping back in. Part of it is that I have a genuine interest in so much. Part is that I’m easily distracted. There’s also this inner voice that keeps whispering at me that a “good “ person would be doing x/y/z as well. And another part that’s actually afraid of committing to the kind of depth that would come with truly narrowing my priorities, which I don’t really understand.

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When I was going through a long drawn-out divorce with 2 children under 5, both with difficult health problems that mainstream medicine did not help with, I was frustrated with myself for not getting more done each day, as ludicrous as that seems when I write it out here, years later. I was going to a mothers group at an Episcopal church and met with a female priest. She listened to my situation and told me to put no more than 3 things on each day’s to do list. Having a kind priest, a mother, who I liked and admired, give me permission to give myself a break was helpful. What I really needed was compassion and adult human connection rather than more tasks done anyway. Hmmm…..

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Love this. Prior to being locked in the house last year, I injured myself In a wide variety of ways which effectively meant I couldn’t really walk properly for about 4 months. When I began to recover I had to put in place a physical therapy regime which at its peak took 2 hours of my day. Taking breaks from work to do that became imperative if I didnt want to end up in lots of pain and now without fail even when locked in the house I do at least one long walk a day in daylight to cope. When I could totally be a never leave the desk person. Not being able to walk really focused my priorities on doing what I could to get better.

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Polly, are you secretly in my apartment?? The no time to shower but hours to doomscroll is extremely me. I'm going to dig into the article you mention, read through your piece about 10 more times, copy your holiday to-do list. I need a rule that will keep me moving on scary-but-meaningful things instead of dashing off for every tiny meaningless thing that floats by offering a false sense of accomplishment. Ideas welcome!

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I assume that every time I make a to-do list AT LEAST one item will have to fall off. If I know going into my weekend that I am not planning on accomplishing everything on my list it gives me permission to actually enjoy completing the tasks I do finish and to allow myself to get distracted by enjoying life. Sometime you must finish all the items, but that is the exception to the rule.

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