Grabbing a months old issue of Real Simple magazine on my way out the door to an appointment (one of the many “rules to live by as a Navy spouse” if you have an appointment and it involves the military in any way shape or form always, always bring something to do) I was happy for once to have an legitimate reason for reading a magazine. I buy them from time to time but never seem to get around to reading them for some reason. This time however I had time to get through the entire issue.
I love Real Simple - the layout and design appeal to my design training at RISD – it’s simple and clean. The articles appeal to my ADD – long enough to give me the information I want, short enough to keep my attention. And the photography is lovely. But today, my eye caught the reason I had originally picked up the magazine months ago (January issue) – “9 secrets to staying motivated this year” was the article that intrigued me (page 124). However, before I could get that far (and stay motivated that long? I know there’s an irony in there somewhere) a snippet on “The Simple List” page (10) made me stop right in my tracks. According to this one paragraph “the maximum number of tasks that should be on a daily to-do list to avoid mental overflow” is seven. This is from Jacqueline Leo’s book “7: The Number for Happiness, Love and Success.”
7? Really? That’s mind opening for me. I live by a to-do list – it’s the only way I’ve found that I can stay on task during the day … and sometimes even that doesn’t work. There have been times, during our moves that I have had 14-day countdown to-do lists, each day taped to every kitchen cabinet door (many times doubled up because only once have I had a kitchen that large). And they’ve had a lot more than 7 items – believe me. With our last move not only did I have a list on every kitchen cabinet door I also had cross-referenced to-do lists taped to every door jam as you entered a room, so I would know what I had to have finished in the room before it was ready for our renters. So perhaps I was a little obsessive-compulsive, but it helped me stay on task and I loved the feeling of accomplishment as I gradually crossed items off the lists. I had A LOT going on – trying to get a family overseas and husband halfway around the world. I was petrified that I would forget something important (like the kids passports or the dogs paperwork or maybe the kids and the dog) and the lists helped me maintain some illusion that I was in control.
But 7? I thought I was doing well, when recently I’d decided that I had to cut my daily to-do down to 10 – and was even more tickled when I snagged some lined post-its that had 10 lines on it (o.k. so it doesn’t take much to make me happy … Jeff is soooooo lucky, he just has no idea). But I thought to myself, Ms. Leo may have a point – rare is the day I can get all things crossed off my list, they just roll over to the next day and sometimes they start to accumulate and it becomes more overwhelming than helpful. Mental Overflow – I like that and I can totally relate. So today, is the first day that the powerful no. 7 has become my friend, and the first thing on my list? Ordering Leo’s book from Amazon. Inspiring.
For more info you can go to the authors website: http://www.jackieleo.com/2009/11/paying-attention-to-best-of-life.html