Out of Control

by Ginger on February 20, 2012

in I'm a Disaster

Yeah. That’s me. I feel totally, 100% out of control of the day to day nonsense of my life. Email, calendar, to-do list…it’s all slipping out of my grasp.

I used to be the person who could keep a billion things in my head at any given time. You could ask me about a marketing campaign from 2 years earlier, what we talked about last week at dinner, and what my calendar, my bosses calendar, and my husbands calendar were for the next 3 months, and I could tell it all to you. These days, I feel lucky if I remember what DAY it is, nevermind what’s on my calendar or what’s on my to-do list.

After the kid was born, things got worse. Call it sleep deprivation, or mommy brain, or whatever, but I seem to have lost the ability to keep more than one or two things in my brain at any given moment. I like to joke that when Jackson was delivered, part of my brain got delivered with him. But I feel like it’s gotten worse, not better, as he’s gotten older.

Lately, I’ve just given in to the slide. Instead of fighting to ahead of it all, I’ve been just going day by day, staying on top of THAT day, and not much else. I forget dr.’s appointments until the day they call me to remind me (god help me if they stop calling). This morning I realized that the big dental work I’ve been planning for months? Yeah, that big appointment is next week. Uh…HUH? When did that happen? And let’s not even get started about work shall we?

But then I sat down today to try and get my arms around everything I need to be doing, and where I’m supposed to be, and my to-do list is THREE FULL PAGES LONG SINGLE SPACED OMG, I kinda had a freak out moment. I can’t keep just sliding, but man, I just don’t know how to make my brain start working better again. (I mean, yeah, I should probably stop hiding in a 3500 page soap opera, but really, I think that’s more a symptom…a way to hide from my problem…rather than the reason. I need to get to the reason). I’ve tried to-do lists, I’ve tried calendars, I’ve tried task lists, I’ve tried digital reminders, I’ve tried…a lot. But having a to-do list doesn’t help if you can’t seem to make your brain remember where your to-do list IS.

I dunno, anyone have any ideas how to make my brain start working again? Because I’m tired of being out of control.

Ashley February 21, 2012 at 6:15 am

I have no advice, but I do want to say that I’m sorry you’re having a rough go of things, and I hope you get back control soon!

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 10:51 am

Thank you!

Jennifer February 21, 2012 at 8:09 am

I wrote a post almost exactly like this last year. I mean almost word for word. I finally went to a therapist because I thought something was wrong with me. Turns out I’m sleep deprived. Like seriously very sleep deprived. I started making changes in something things and it has gotten a tiny smidge better. I’m not sure I will ever be like I was pre-kids, but it has gotten somewhat better now that I’m getting more sleep (and by more I try for six hours uninterrupted a night).

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 10:53 am

I’ve wondered if it’s sleep deprivation. I usually clock somewhere around 6 hours a night, but I’m not sure I can say it’s uninterrupted most days. Definitely something to consider…

Chris February 21, 2012 at 9:50 am

If you’re unfamiliar, you might look into David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Some people take it as gospel, but really there are a lot of time/task management tips that can be taken from his strategy that don’t involve joining the Cult of GTD.

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

GTD keeps coming up (in both positive and negative ways). I should check it out just to see what it’s all about…

Chris February 22, 2012 at 11:24 am

Well, the obvious concern is that you can spend so much time trying to track tasks and manage productivity that you’re actually *decreasing* productivity. The trick to GTD is to figure out how much of it you need or can use to enhance your task management without adopting so much of it that The Process becomes a hindrance.

If that makes any sense. Heh.

N.C. March 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Wow, great advice Chris! If only I had said something similar to her! Wink wink!!!

Mama Durso February 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

Girl, I feel ya. I have a couple of things that I do that make me feel more in control… besides get more sleep because that’s not really something I am in control of.

First: I kicked the coffee. I don’t know if you’re a caffeine addict like I was, but I finally just got off of it and my brain calmed down a LOT. I felt like my To Do list was something I could handle when I wasn’t all hopped up on caffeine. Obviously, there are days I need it to function, so I haven’t sworn it off, but doing a caffeine detox for a week and then having coffee occasionally has really helped my state of mind.

Second, I quit To Do lists. Well, not entirely. I sit down and write out all the stuff I want to do, and then put it on the calendar so that I will actually DO it. It’s calming to prioritize everything and then make a strategy to get everything finished. That way when I have put the boys to bed at night, I look at the calendar and go, “Oh yeah, I need to write a birthday card for so-and-so.” I started doing this after I read this article (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/to-do_lists_dont_work.html) and was shocked when it actually helped. I’m a list-making freak, so that’s saying something.

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

To Do lists just don’t really work for me, so it’s worth trying to find another way. I tend to just see the giant list of things to do and then freak out to the point where I just throw up my hands and say “screw this, I’ll just read blogs instead.” Which helps exactly nothing.

And the caffeine thing is interesting. I’m not a coffee addict, but I do have a LOT of Diet Coke (less caffeine than coffee, but still plenty there). I really may have to consider that (but…but…my Diet Coke!).

Rose's Daughter February 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

I have no advice since I’m in the same position. But I’ll read all the comments to see if someone does!

emily @ the happy home February 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

i think my permanent brain fart is being brought on by depression. when you dread waking up 5 days a week, of course your brain is going to make things disappear. i’m working on trying to find the key underlying problem. self-psychoanalysis, if you will.

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

Yeah. That. I’m figuring that is a big part of the problem too. Figuring out how to fix that though is harder than trying to find a new time management system though, you know? (you know.)

Christine @ Love, Life, Surf February 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thank you for writing this. I can completely relate and it’s been hard for me to articulate just exactly I’ve been feeling. Now I realize it’s because it’s EVERYTHING that feels out of control. I used to be so on top of things and remembered every last detail but now can’t remember what day it is let alone conversations that I had with my husband literally 10 seconds ago. My husband chalks it up to getting older which just frustrates me because that just feels like an excuse. I love making lists and usually that helps to keep me organized but that isn’t even doing the trick. You’re right, the brain needs to work first. When yours starts working, would you mind giving mine a jump start? Thanks.

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

I hate the getting older argument. It’s MORE THAN JUST FORGETFULNESS! I can’t explain it to anyone who isn’t in my head, but it’s a way that my brain just isn’t recognizing the same things it used to. And like, I can feel that those threads are still there, just buried under a layer of fog somewhere….

Classic NYer February 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I’ve found that having a working brain is far inferior to having a calendar that makes noise. Like on a phone or something. Just make it beep really loudly to remind you of anything… and not stop until you’ve located the phone to silence it. (I swear if my phone didn’t ring, I’d never know where it was. Seriously. Once I was out all day and didn’t realize I didn’t have my phone until I was standing outside my door trying to call my husband to tell him to let me in because I’d forgotten my keys…)

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 11:03 am

Oh, my phone. That is a constant source of…something. I keep it on vibrate most of the time, which drives my husband nuts. But I can’t seem to remember to take it off silent when I leave work. (Symptom of the bigger problem?). I think I need to reprogram my brain to have digital calendar work for me (she says as her Google calendar languishes unused…).

Elizabeth February 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I’m more or less with you right now–I have all of these amazing intentions for the week, but then, DAMN, it’s suddenly Friday, and poof.

Everything bogging me down right now is a legitimate commitment, so there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment, but I deliberately left summer nice and blank, so when I start panicking, I think about summer. I know none of that is helpful for you, but commiseration is nice!

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

Oh, and you’ve got to be crazy busy with school! I do envy your summer though…it would be nice to have something on the horizon to focus on!

ARC February 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I think you’re reading my mind, too.

But what Mama Durso said. Google Calendar is my lifeline. Everything goes on it. I have it on my phone. I have it at work and home, too. Stuff like “fill out preschool paperwork” gets a one hour block on my calendar so then I get reminders and actually do stuff. Way better than miles long to do lists.

Ginger February 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

You guys are convincing me to give Google calendar another shot. I’ve never used it particularly well, but I’ll give it another try! Maybe it’s the tool I need…

Trina February 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I echo the Google Docs which includes calendar. I love it because I can get it from anywhere and it syncs to my phone. On docs I can make my lists, but I use the calendar to tell me what’s going on in my life. I even have it color coded for GA vs work vs real life. I think you just need a weekend where you can sit without interruption (okay maybe a couple of hours) and you can get this all set up and you will feel better. Any stress you are feeling from not getting through your list could also be contributing to your sleep deprivation.

hollow tree ventures February 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Thanks for doing this post – it makes me feel less alone! Like the other commenters, I’m in the same boat. To Do lists used to be my perfect solution, but now I feel so overwhelmed that I have multiple lists, plus calendar reminders, plus paper notes jotted down, and I end up feeling more out of control than ever. I’ve tried consolidating, but it never seems to work and just results in the Terrifying Long List anyway. And whenever I think I’ve barely gotten it under control, something pops up (oops, I forgot to make the kids’ dental appointments, oops I was supposed to be volunteering at the school today, etc) and I feel like, if I forgot THAT even when I was “on top of things,” then surely there are other things I’ve forgotten that are just lurking out there, waiting to spring on me! Ugh. I bet sleep would help, but would that be enough? And how do I tell all the kids, “Um, stop being kids and needing me please, until I can get rested and locate my brain”?

Christa the BabbyMama February 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I have nothing constructive to offer, but if someone gives you the magic answer – share! Lately I have been feeling the same way. I’m just trying to get through, not crushing it like I used to…

clara February 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Yeah, I don’t know. But just wanted to say hey.

Well, OK, what I think is that it goes deeper than tools or calendars. Sleep deprivation, yeah. Maybe. But also do you have a dedicated block of time for you? Just you? Not you-the-kid-stuff or you-the-husband-stuff or you-the-blogger-stuff, but you, Ginger? Doing what you love to do? Doing what centers you? Because if you don’t then your brain is going to ignore everything else in an attempt to get your attention back.

Personally, if I give my brain 15 minutes of writinginmyjournal time in the morning, it functions much better for the rest of the morning. I see stuff, I do it, I accomplish things. Because that part of my brain that wants my dedicated attention isn’t always screaming at me to look at it while I’m trying to look at something else.

Have you ever tried to write a blog post while Jackson is trying to get you to play with him? It’s like that. The blog post is half-assed and the kid is unhappy and nothing gets done and you’re cranky. You have to say: Brain! I hear you! Here is some time for you! Now, let me accomplish this other stuff that is also important!

Just a theory. Never met you. Internet caveat. Etc. 🙂

kate February 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I wish I could offer you sage words of advice, but I can only sympathize. My brain is mush. It was relatively intact after B’s birth, but with two kiddos – I am done for. Lists are good. They hold what little I have left together, even if they are depressing at the same time… Good luck!

oilandgarlic February 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I’d like to say that I just blog about this but I can’t quite remember… I thought about quitting lists but I do need them. I think lists in general work for me, or just the act of writing it down somewhere, but too many lists is the problem. I have an online one, a printed one and post-it notes.

Cloud February 24, 2012 at 11:24 pm

OK, late to the party here… but if you find the big list overwhelming, have you tried starting each day by writing out your to do list for the day? Break up the big tasks into little steps, and pick a reasonable but moderately ambitious set of items for the day. I write my daily to do list either at the end of the day before or first thing in the morning, while I drink my tea and read my email.

But more generally… this post reads to me like someone past their work limit. When I hit this “over subscribed” state, I usually make it a point to take a walk at lunch, or take a night off work, or do whatever I think will help me clear the slate, so that I can tackle my to do list refreshed. I am a big believer in the idea that sometimes working longer is counter-productive, and what we need is a break so that we can come back to our work with more mental power. I think of it very much like I think of physical labor- sometimes, you need time for the muscle (or the brain) to recover.

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