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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Charting Success

So, while I’ve been compiling my ideas about success, I’ve been trying to be practical, too. All this with an eye on that stack of self-help books. I want to see what I’m accomplishing without them, so I can compare how I’m proceeding before reading them to how I’m going to eject from my desk into the stratosphere once I’ve read them and started implementing their strategies.

First off, I needed some way to feel like I was actually accomplishing stuff. Accomplishing stuff – or feeling like I’m accomplishing stuff – lies at the heart of my feelings of success, nestled up close to feeling recognized. So I bought a notebook and dedicated it to everything about this project.

Next, I needed to channel my favorite Type As. Since I don't match my socks to my underwear, and my long time friend who does is far away and hard to contact, I turned, as always, to a book.

Remember that list of stuff that I’m trying to accomplish at any one time? Well, cribbing from Gretchen Rubin, I decided to try charting my activities on a nice weekly grid, so that I could check off everything I was doing every day, check, check, check, without taking a lot of time.

I made a chart:

Did I mention that the husband stifled a smile when I told him I had done this? The usually so supportive and kind husband? Yes, it’s true. And it is also true that I’m really not a chart person. I’m more of a list person; rather, I’m more of a write-a-list-on-a-sticky-note-and-forget-it person. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try to imitate more accomplished people, and so I made a pretty chart.

Still copying –er, adapting--from Gretchen Rubin, I decided to keep the chart for 2 weeks. Even a rule-evader like myself could stick to that, if all I had to do was a quick check-off before bed.

By the end of the second or third day, I realized how much a check-mark could not convey about some of these topics, so I decided that after my 2 weeks charting, I’d spend 2 weeks keeping a daily log. It also quickly became clear that some of my categories were uncheckable. Perhaps unsurprising. Much of what I do is ongoing. I mean, when is it appropriate to put a check mark alongside “Spouse," as in "To Spouse?" After an argument is resolved? When we actually go out alone together? (Well, that will be blank for months). Similarly with "Parent," as in "To Parent." Still, I did put a check mark under those once or twice, if there was some issue that I had to deal with out of the ordinary.

I could go into detail about all the categories, including the ones I never checked in that first week. But I won't. I will say that despite the smirk of  the Usually So Supportive Husband, I stuck to it for 3 weeks before trying the log. I actually preferred the chart. Logging proved self-defeating. If I added details to what I’d done, then the information became repetitive, since I was already writing about it in a notebook. If I just listed things, then I felt as jumbled as I always do as a mom/writer/job seeker/human/spouse, etc etc. I started avoiding the notebook. It turns out I’m better at lengthy notes every few days, interspersed with interview notes and so forth. To record that I’ve accomplished tasks, the chart works for me.

Anything work for you?


  1. I totally like this blog. the chart is cool and "the husband" (the usually kind and supporting one) plays a very nice role in the blog. sounds like you are working hard on this success project.
    good luck...


  2. Your chart is depressing me. If I had such a thing, I would doubtless have two or three check marks for the entire week. So there, you are much more of a success than you think you are - well, at least compared to this non-Type A person.

    I have a friend (also Wellesley grad) who once said she started feeling a lot better once she decided that she would feel successful if she checked off one thing on her to-do list each day. Aaargh - even that doesn't always work. My one thing - rescheduling Ezra's OT appointment - only got half done today.

    BTW, who is this CeceA person above me? Your CeceA.?

  3. Susan, I hope you noticed all the UNCHECKED items on the list. These are all the balls I have in the air at this time. I figured if I could check off some of them every day, I'd feel more in control.

    Yes, that is my CeceA. Funny, right?

  4. Very funny. As far as I can tell, boys that age only think about Pokemon, Mario Bros., and, possibly, baseball, not writers' blogs.

  5. In Ben Franklin's Autobiography, he also did a checklist for a better life. Uh, he got somewhere. Hope it works as a tool for a while.