When I’m feeling unproductive and ready to make a change, I make to-do lists. I start out earnestly, thinking about the things I want to accomplish during the day, then I get overzealous, and before long, everything I intend to accomplish in my entire life is scribbled on the six lines my planner gives me for the day. By noon, I have to reevaluate my plans because there is simply not enough time. By bedtime, unmade phone calls, my messy bedroom, undone homework, and the fishbowl that still needs cleaning are weighing on me, and I feel like a failure.
Instead of overwhelming to-do lists, I propose a gentler idea: a self-love letter. Every night before I go to bed, I leave myself a note on the mirror encouraging me to do the essential things I need to get done, some ideas to entertain myself before going on the internet for hours on end, and a bit of positivity. It goes something like this:
Good morning! Today is Sunday, October 5th. It’s really important that you reschedule that doctor’s appointment today and turn in that essay. If you get bored today, think about going to the library, taking one of the dogs for a walk, or doing some writing. Don’t forget that you have work at 10:30 tomorrow, and you also told Colette you’d give her a ride to the bookstore at 5:00. If you start feeling sad, just remember that your family loves you and you have that concert to look forward to on the 18th. One great thing about you is your smile. Have an awesome day!
You can customize this self-love letter any way you’d like. For me, the essentials of it are no more than three “to-do” items (turning in my essay and rescheduling the doctor’s appointment in the example above), a few suggestions of ways to fill up my day, and an affirmation. The ideas of things with which to fill my day was especially important when I was home from school but hadn’t started treatment yet. I found myself getting bored, which led to feeling sorry for myself, which led to feeling depressed. Keeping myself busy became essential. You might want to add a space for something you’re grateful for, a long-term goal you’re working towards, or a way you’re going to reward yourself for getting through the day. Keep it open-ended and positive, and you’re bound to have a better day.