• Cate

Setting Priorities: On Cats, and Lists, and Shiny Things


I thought you might be interested to know that I'm trying to write this blog post while my cat is doing her best to disrupt any activity that isn't directly related to her. Currently she is determined to sit on my knee with her paws on my wrist, making it very difficult to type with my left hand.


She is also, slowly but surely, sliding off. Every so often I have to stop and hoick her back up... either that or suffer her claws as she does it for herself.


Why not just chuck her off? you ask, and, believe me, I ask myself the same question quite often. The truth is, I like the feeling of her weight (and she has plenty of that - she is a very big cat) and I enjoy listening to her purr. It is a very comforting sound, and there is something relaxing about the way the vibrations pulse through you. There is a rhythm to her relaxation.


The next question you might ask is, why are you telling me this?


Well, there is a method in my madness. I ask you to view this as a metaphor. Here I am, attempting to get something done, but allowing myself to be distracted from doing it. I am actually enjoying the distraction, encouraging it even, but it is making the doing of the task all that much more difficult (and giving me a sore back at the same time).


How often do we do this in our lives? Make things difficult for ourselves? Allow ourselves to be distracted… or waylaid entirely, even from things we want to do?


As I type that last paragraph, I realise that I have given up using my left hand. I am typing one handed while holding the cat’s paw with the other hand… and she is holding my hand in return, her claws deftly hooked around my little finger. It is awkward, and, yet, I am deriving a great deal of pleasure from our connection.


In truth, I should give up on one or the other. I should either pause in my writing of the post, or put the cat off my knee.


I should… prioritise!


Strangely, I think the cat enjoys the somewhat staccato rhythm of my typing… I stopped for a moment there and she woke up long enough to look at me, then relaxed again and tucked her head in under my arm, purring once more, as I resumed my tap, tap, tapping.



Anyway, back to prioritising, the actual subject of this post - not to mention its partner, procrastination, in which I am an expert. No, truly… aware of my own distractibility, I started looking into research on procrastination in order to create a course on overcoming it, went down the proverbial rabbit hole, and now know more about procrastination than a normal person should.


Good thing I’m not normal, hey?


And I still haven’t got around to getting that course done! But I could tell you why, and what I need to do next.


Anyway, back to the prioritising (which is one way of overcoming the procrastinating).


Why am I letting the cat disturb my scheduled blog post writing time? Good question.


But note, I am still getting the post done,


and she is providing excellent material.

I, like many equally besotted people, love my cat – although for you it may be a dog or a bird or a goldfish. I loved my previous cat, too, who lived as part of our family for 23 years and, honestly, when he died, I swore ‘no more pets’. It hurt way too much. This cat is not like that cat. That cat would never have demanded this kind of attention. That cat was above that sort of thing. All he required was serving dutifully. This one wants love and attention.


This cat came about because we missed the last cat, we had mice in the house, and we thought purr therapy might be good for our anxious resident teen. This cat has fulfilled all those purposes (although she couldn’t catch a mouse to save her life – luckily, they don’t know that and have packed their bags and left the house, anyway) and more beside. Which is just as well because she chose us. A ‘let’s just go and see’ mission to the RSPCA became a full blown rescue, et voila, we are now owned by our big, floppy calico rescue cat.


I feel I have a duty to give into her demands for love, because, you know, she loves us so much.


So, I have prioritised her cuddle. For now.


My back (and a cockatoo outside my window who is demanding food – loudly) is telling me my priorities will have to change very soon. It’s okay, the sun will be over the mountain soon, and flooding through my study window, and she will choose her basket in the warmth over me, then. I am not so besotted that I don’t realise that she is still a cat, so self-centred is her middle name.


In the meantime, this is taking longer, but it is still getting done.


However, excuse me for a moment.


Right, I’m back now. The cockatoo is fed (she became a priority because she can get very loud, plus if I ignore her long enough she starts eating the house), the cat has been placated (and this may have involved food, too), and I have a nice hot cuppa (and a biccie – food seems to be the theme here).



Prioritise.


I am learning to prioritise – I say learning, because I think this is an ongoing thing and it is really easy to backslide into just faffing around. I am trying to do what I do intentionally. I will explain my rationalising in the hopes that it may inspire you (if, in fact, you actually need to be inspired).


It started with a sense of overwhelm. I wanted to do all the shiny things. I mean ALL the shiny things.


I wanted to write – children’s fiction, fiction for adults, blog posts, newsletters, tips and tricks, courses… ALL of it.


I wanted to make art – and I wanted to get good at it. I wanted to clean up my house and make it a beautiful place to be. I wanted to grow a veggie patch (and actually eat the produce before the wallaby, possum, and any random passing goat). I wanted wildflowers and apple trees (again, not consumed by the wildlife). I wanted to learn to use my man’s complicated camera without resorting to auto.


I wanted to be there for my kids and my grandkids and my mum and that man with the complicated camera who is my life partner and soul mate and sometimes (often) gets the short end of the straw.


I wanted to be fit and well. I wanted to meet with my friends. I wanted to share what I knew and had learned. And I wanted to make some money because I just gave up teaching and I’m feeling a bit poor. Oh, yes, I wanted to learn about finances because I left that way too late and my super is like pocket money. ALL the things! And more besides (I wanted to cuddle the cat).


I was overwhelmed because I couldn’t DO all the things.


I still can’t. Not all at once, anyway.


I’m learning to prioritise, and it seems to be working – even though some days I still end up faffing about. I forgive myself that, because I have a plan.



Some things I have put to one side. For now. Other things I have scheduled. BUT I have factored in ‘white space’ for those things that ‘come up’. How have I done it? With a multi-faceted approach (sounds a bit like a diamond ring when I put it like that, and, by the way, the cat is snoring in the sun by the window now):

  • I made a big list, divided into different categories, of all the things I wanted to do, and decided what was most important to me in each category at this time in my life – on the understanding that things change. Some things have been put to one side, for now. I can reinsert them later, but I have them in a holding pattern. Not forgotten, just waiting in the wings.


  • I created a master to do list.


  • I looked at what was on the list and the time available to me (including white space) and created a timetable or a schedule for each category (years of being a teacher and timetabling my week had to come in handy somehow – strangely, this background also gives me the comforting knowledge that it doesn’t matter how careful my timetable is, something will always turn up to disrupt it, eg. a cat).


  • I keep a calendar on which I write any time-specific tasks (appointments, meetings, birthdays).


  • At the beginning of each week, I transfer any of the date and time specific events to my daily planner.


  • Each morning, I consult the list and the schedule, choose my Three Most Important Things, and write them on my daily planner, taking into account any of the date and time specific tasks already there. I then pop other little tasks around those things. I also colour-code all the tasks so I can see which category they fit into – this probably isn’t necessary, but it helps me see the balance, and it looks pretty, which is important to me.


  • I endeavour to keep to those things and those things only. Of course, it doesn’t always work. Because cats. And other things. As I complete a task, however, I tick it off (great for an immediate endorphin boost). If I start but don’t complete a task and it can be deferred until tomorrow, I pop in a little arrow. If, for whatever reason, I cannot do a task, I add a cross. If something ‘came up’, I write it in and tick it off. I do not leave any boxes blank. This is important. This tells me that I have worked through and reviewed my day intentionally.


  • I don't beat myself up if it doesn't work. There is always tomorrow.




With this system in place, I have written thousands and thousands of words in my WIP plus many additional words in social media posts and blogs. I have undertaken an art challenge and revived my daily sketching practice. My house is becoming more organised (I am in process of a major move for my study – only across the corridor, but my bookshelves had to leave via the garage and enter via the window!). I am spending time with my family. I am stretching every morning and going for regular walks… and I have just started learning to use that complicated camera.


Meanwhile, the garden is in a wait state – it needs some seasonal work that I will block in soon – and I have deliberately chosen to back off on attending webinars and online events (whilst slowly and carefully reintroducing some IRL ones). Reading for pleasure every night is back on course and I’m about to include some professional and self development type reading somewhere in the mix, too (please note: one of my defaults when there is too much to do is escape into a book... I can spend hours doing nothing but reading, days even).


Best of all, I’ve got that sense of overwhelm mostly under control. And the cat got her cuddle. Although my keyboard is now covered in cat fur!


It’s working for me. I even got my blog post written, although I'll probably leave procrastinating for another day.





What works for you?