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How do you prioritize garden tasks without becoming overwhelmed?

 
gardener
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Location: N. California
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I have been out of work for almost a year now.  You would think my yard and gardens would be better than they have been in years.  Not even close!  I don't know what is up with me, but I haven't given even close to enough time or effort.  Maybe some of it's depression, some is the garden kept me sane after working with the public all day, and now it's not needed.  I menially put my foot down for myself.  I'm taking some vitamins to help give me a little boost maybe and making myself go out and do  something, every day even if it's small.  The problem is I have let so much go I go out and end up spending time with my chickens pull a handful of weeds and go back inside.  
I'm overwhelmed with projects.  My normal personality is I'm a terrible starter.  Once I start it's hard to tare me away, I won't stop until the project is done.  So what if we eat sandwiches for dinner all week, there aren't dishes or laundry, I'm busy.  Lately I will start a project and part way through I think I need to do project B to truly do a good job on project A, and while I'm working on B I think man C really needs to be done first, but C, D, and E all go together, Calendar said I should be working on H, I and J.  You get the idea.  So I have seedlings on my dinning room table where I need the space because my son needs me to make him a few more masks.  I took my back garden gate down months ago so I could redo my veggie garden. So I can't plant anything in my garden because I still haven't figured out how to keep the Chickens in the chicken yard.  One hugel beet is done and the other one I plan to do hasn't been started.  The little greenhouse the seeds need to go into that only needed some repairs a few days ago now have no plastic on it at all because of the big wind storm we had.  Weeds are everywhere.  The back yard is still covered with walnuts, haven't planted my potatoes, pruned my fruit trees, or roses, or grapes and on and on, and here I sit on the first  beautiful day we have had all week whining to you.  I feel so overwhelmed I have been doing very small tasks and going into the house and burring myself in a book.  I'm so mad at myself!  I just can't get out of this funk I'm in.  I did manage to finish one hugel beet, and then the weather got cold and super windy, then rain (which I'm grateful for because we need it sooooo bad)  But if feels like even nature is against me.
I was wondering what you all do to prioritize tasks to keep from becoming overwhelmed?  Thanks
 
Posts: 15
Location: North of Shelton, WA
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I keep a list ranked in the order of when things must get done. I then work only on the item on the top of the list that needs to be done the soonest.

This is our first year on this property, so we are putting everything in from scratch and I have to keep reminding myself that perfection is the enemy of the done. This year doesn't need to be perfect, I just need to make progress.

If that means you focus on getting the greenhouse done, so you can get the seeds in it. That's a win, only work on the greenhouse until it is good enough to get the seeds in it.

Right now top 5 in order are:
- Find someone to deliver raised bed garden soil, onions needs to be in already
- Must decide on a date for last frost
- Create a calendar for seed starting via garden planner
- Create space for seed starting
- Build an additional raised bed
 
pioneer
Posts: 93
Location: Japan
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My son's TV show gave me a bit of advice that helped. It was a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood episode about being frustrated. The strategy song was something along the lines of: "When you feel frustrated, ask for help."

I don't usually ask for help, but sometimes it's what we need to do.

I'm also very overwhelmed recently, and I'd echo the previous reply: This year doesn't have to be perfect. Getting through it is enough for me.

Pick a task you want to do. Make a dent in it. If you want to keep going, do. Rest when you need to.
 
pollinator
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Something that works for me is to start on a little yard cleanup in the morning, and clean up for as long as I can until I run into an unfinished project. If I'd rather finish the project now rather than putting it away and getting it back out later, then I work on the project for the rest of the day. This method works good for finishing projects that are mostly done but not all the way done, and cleaning up the yard a little bit is always good
 
pollinator
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So maybe it is depression that makes you overwhelmed?  That’s okay....you can fix that.  You just need help.  I’ve suffered from depression for years.  Got a great shrink..good drugs and I’m much much better.  But I had to admit I needed that kind of help. I control it now.  It’s hard for us to admit when we need help but you HAVE TO.

That would be my first priority...getting myself straightened out...finding out why I feel so overwhelmed. Not working is a transition.  A hard one!  I just retired and it feels like I get nothing accomplished myself! I focus on small projects I know I can finish!  Then I get the satisfaction of a job done!

Then, remember gardening is supposed to be FUN!  If it’s not FUN why are you doing it?  If I HAD to garden it would be toilsome.  Since I CHOOSE to garden it’s my hobby!  My pleasure, my relaxation!  Fun!

But if you think you are suffering from depression go get help.  It’s absolutely okay to talk about it! I’m glad you brought it up here.


 
Jen Fulkerson
gardener
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Thanks for all your kind words. I appreciate them very much.  I have thought about making a list, but thought it would make it worse because it is such a huge list.  If I limit it to 5 things like what was suggested I could work on that list, and start a new one once I'm done.  I don't consider myself a perfectionist, but I always want to be.  I'm terrible at asking for help.  I thought I had gotten better at it over the years, but maybe something I still need to work on.  I don't have many I can ask. My husband has chronic pain because of a neck injury, so he has a hard time just managing his basic needs.  My middle 2 kids work, my youngest work when he is needed.  It just doesn't feel right asking when I'm not working.  I should, it's there home, and garden too.  As far as depression, my mom fought it her hole life.  Doctors, and meds, and still suffered.  I don't like doctors, or meds.  I try to manage on my own.  Being fired after 14 years has been a huge blow to my self-esteem.  Not to mention not getting a new job in almost a year.  Covid isn't helping, and I really don't want to go back to retail.  Anyway sometimes it just gets me down.  I just need to keep moving forward and try to be positive. So far we are managing financially, I have a home, and a loving family.  I just have to remind myself now and then.  Thanks to you all.
 
master steward
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The giant lists terrify me...but they also help. My biggest thing has been to have one place where I put my lists. Otherwise, they get lost around my house and then I can't find them and have to recreate them.

Maybe make one GIANT list of everything you can think of. Put that at like the end of a planner/agenda/journal. Then make a list for just this month. Make sure to cross things off as you do them.

I just ordered myself a planner for this year. I was really grateful to have one last year--I called the thing my brain because it held all the things I needed to do. Sometimes just having the things off of your actual brain and down on the paper can help, too. When they're all floating around in my head, I constantly am reminding myself "AHHHH! I forgot that I needed to hack back the paths! .....AHHHHH! Oh no, I never got potting soil! ....Oh my goodness, I haven't done the kids history stuff this week! ....Oh no! I can't forget that I need to get twine and pull down fruit tree branches."

Every time my brain goes "OH NO! You need to do X" I feel awful in two ways. I feel awful that I forgot about it for a while, and I feel awful that I haven't' done it yet. Having it written down helps.

Having said that, I haven't written down a good to-do list in a while. Thank you for the reminder!
 
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Basically by talking about how to prioritize anything, we're now talking time management in general, which is really a whole ecosystem – or polyculture if you will ;)  

Once upon a time, I regularly taught time management (among other things) to military academy officer candidates.  These young adults are (naturally) under tremendous stress with obligations galore as they prepare themselves morally, mentally, and physically for the rigors of military service.  (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!  Phew!)

Sadly I don't readily have any of the worksheets or products I made for reference; but that said, I still remember the gist of what I would teach during academic advising sessions and workshops.


It is a very personal thing, how we each choose to spend our time.


Fortunately, in my opinion at least, there is a very logical flow which can help us de-stress.   Also, it helps to remember that the stress-performance relationship is an inverted U.  Some stress is very good as it spurs productivity.

The general pattern I see as something like this:

1. UNDERSTANDING THYSELF
-Do I know who I am?
-Do I know why I am here?

2. VALUES
-Do I know who I care most about?
-Do I know what I care most about?
-What do I value in life, myself, and others?

3. VISION & MISSION
-How can I best live out those values?
-What kind of person do I want to be?
-What kind of world do I want to create?
-What is my mission here on Earth?
-Who shares this vision or mission with me?

4. LONG TERM GOALS
-What distant achievements can get me closer to the vision and mission?
-What time horizon do I have to achieve them?

5. MEDIUM TERM GOALS
-What intermediate achievements help me achieve my longer term goals?
-What time horizon do I have to achieve them?

6. SHORT TERM GOALS
-What specific near-term accomplishments will help me live out my values?
-When can they be achieved?

7. TASKS
-What things MUST I accomplish?
-What things “should” I accomplish?
-What things can I accomplish?
-What things do I not really have to accomplish?

8. PRIORITIZING
-How do I decide where to spend my time?
-Is this task important or unimportant?
-Is this task urgent or not urgent?
-If it is worth doing, can I do it and get it out of the way now?
-Can I delegate it?
-Can I defer it until later by putting it on my schedule?
-Can I delete it?

9. SCHEDULING
-What do I intend on doing?
-How long will it take?
-When?
-Where?
-What system (paper, electronic, etc.) will I use to remind me to manage my actions?


10. EXECUTION
-What is the very first step?  Do it.
-What is the next step?
-Can I get help to make this go better?

11. REFLECTION AND FEEDBACK (aka back to one)
-Am I achieving the design?
-If I didn’t do something I intended, why didn’t I?
-How am I feeling, and are my feelings helping me or hurting me?
-How am I thinking, and are my thoughts helping me or hurting me?
-What needs to change to better align 1 through 10 above?
-Do I need assistance from others?

From a permaculture perspective we are essentially designing ourselves and our activities from “pattern to detail” while “observing and interacting” and “accepting feedback” about our own actions and results.

Even something as "simple" as a garden, and all that goes into it ultimately reflects our own values and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.  
 
Posts: 100
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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Personally, Lists. It's the only way I can manage a full time job, wifey duties, homeschooling our kiddos, schooling myself, my micro shop and creating paradise in our backyard. There is another thread that I responded to recently about how I plan the gardening. Mainly, lists. Each morning I go out with one and come back with stuff to add. The list get's prioritized by timeframe. Does it need to happen asap, like creating new beds or starting seeds, or can it wait like weed eating the perimeter or stacking wood? Beds need to breakdown so that is first. Overgrowth will always be there, unless it's Ivy or H.Blackberry it can wait until...I don't know, maybe when my hubs get's sick of looking at it?

I know lists are not for everyone but not only does it give me direction, it's proof of what I accomplished each day which gives me a sense of peace :)

 
Posts: 131
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Separate tasks from projects, and schedule them.

A task is something you MUST do, if you don't do it, things will go awry. That's something like feeding the chicken. You must do all your tasks in the scheduled time. If you cannot do it, then you are overtasked and need help with the tasks.

Then projects are things you do for FUN, sometimes they are improvements, sometimes they are not. That's something like trying a new type of fencing. Projects you should limit them to 2 to 3 at the same time. Trying to do more projects at once is asking for not finishing them. Also, it is very important for your mood that you pick at least one of those projects to be something that you can achieve with ease. You need to feel that you have succeeded, once in a while, so you keep your morale high. Try to not expend too much time in your projects, even if they are absorbing, you will need the rest to keep on with the rest of stuff in your life.
 
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Personally when I get discouraged it's because I'm a procrastinator. I put off the tasks I would really enjoy till later when I will really really appreciate them. And I put off the difficult things which I would be really plumped up as a result of accomplishing because they are woohoo hard. That leaves the middle which is neither very enjoyable nor very awesome . So really I need to remember to mix it up. When I do life is a pretty nice balance. I say hang in there n get a bit more balance. It will be better after a bit. Changes make the whole picture more complex but also more interesting!
 
master steward
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I like to use a list.

I don't make a list of everything I need to do.

I make a list of what I am going to do today or tomorrow because I usually make my lists the night before.

I also scratch off the things as I do them.

If I don't get to everything on that list I just set it aside and make my list for tomorrow.  At some point, I may gather all my lists and tackle the one I hadn't gotten.  
 
pollinator
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honestly, i really like the giant lists. the list itself is so big that one glance and i’m basically absolved of the sin of not finishing it. which makes it easier to just pick the most immediate things, based on either level of urgency or just what i’d rather do (depending on my own headspace), to attend to, and maybe get crossed off the list. works for me, anyway.
 
Posts: 62
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I have several responses.
First, it looks to me like your real problem is depression, and yes you should get help but when I was a case manager at a community mental health facility I noted that my clients with depression tended to avoid two things that are really helpful for depression: exercise and social contact. If SAD is a factor, getting outside and walking, ideally in the morning and ideally on sunny days--you need that vitamin D--can help a lot. And where you live, you can garden--that's the best therapy for me because I love gardening. I live in West Virginia and it's winter here--I itch to get my hands in the dirt. And I have actually read that there are microbes in the soil that have antidepressant qualities. Don't wear gloves! But maybe you don't love gardening. I remember years ago saying I'd just as soon be an ordinary housefly as an ordinary housewife, it seemed so ignominious. But now I can embrace that identity, as long as it's broad--not just cleaning the house, but cooking and baking bread and making cheese and keeping chickens and raising fruit and vegetables and canning and making maple syrup.
As far as list making, I will mention reading that crossing something off a list causes endorphins--one reason to keep a list. I do most of the time but don't have a January list as I have so little to do now.
I had a prioritizing system when I had young kids very different from my current system. I had what I called a system of rotating neglect. One week I'd neglect housework, and double down in the garden. The next week I'd catch up on housework and neglect the woodcrafts that were our livelihood. The only thing was, I never really neglected my kids, and housework got more than its share of neglect.
Now I'm 65, my husband and I both get social security and he earns a little with online work; my kids are grown and self-sufficient; so my gardening and homesteading work and environmental defense activism are my only priorities (well, I've tried writing novels but am not getting anywhere with those). I live in luxury, though our income would be considered low in the US, at just under $20K /year. I have a list but what I do first, most of the time, is whatever I feel like doing. I do take urgency and the logic of this-needs-to-be-done-before-that into account, and the weather today is just right for X, but mostly I do what I enjoy--well, I do have a constraint in that late May or so to early September is chigger season, and the way to deal with those is to take a scrubby shower within three hours of exposure, so my garden work is limited to three hours a day in summer.
I also think maybe part of your problem is that once you get well behind, on things like weeds, it can be dispiriting to put several hours into what needs to be done and feel like you've barely made a dent. The advice is to never let weeds go to seed, so you don't have long-term problems--but my problem is, I HAVE to use mulch and hay is what's available. But the hay--or straw--always has mature weed seeds in it. It's hard to keep up, increasingly. Maybe you need to draft your kids to get caught up and then use mulch or whatever to keep areas weed free so you can start to see what you've accomplished, start seeing the place becoming what you envision--THEN it's easy to get motivated to get to work getting more done.
 
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Toni Cameron wrote:I have to keep reminding myself that perfection is the enemy of the done.



Thank you! I needed to see/hear that today.

I “follow” FlyLady via emails.  FlyLady (dot net? I think) says to just get something done. “Housework done badly still blesses your home!” Then she says a ton about misplaced perfectionism.

I’m going back to reading and resting my hand so maybe it won’t ache every time I try to use it tomorrow. I sprained my wrist over a year ago while wrestling with a rooster. It’s a long story.
 
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I've always been a list maker but what I found in the past is I wouldn't get everything done which was a bit frustrating or felt like a lack of accomplishment. What I do now is make a list of 3 things to do that I know I can finish within the time frame allowed.
 
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My family and I have been feeling similar.  I can't presume for sure what might be making you feel how you describe, but I would suggest what has helped us.  We've found B vitamins really help a lot with our mental state.  We use a "Nutritional Yeast" supplement.  We administer it by sprinkling it in our food.  Research how B vitamins affect the mind! Also for energy, try taking way too much wheat grass powder! I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet after taking these for a week, you'd definitely feel better!  Maybe even an hour after taking them!
 
pollinator
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Giving good advice is difficult. Every situation has more than one side. In your case there is: you stopped your work, you feel depressed and you have a garden in need of attention. And probably there is more ...
I can only tell what I do. Like others I make lists. Not too long lists. I have a list of projects I need to work on but do not have to finish immediately, and every day I make a to-do list for the important tasks I want to do that day. That last list is on a whiteboard; every task I have finished I wipe out, About dinner time it is empty and I start writing the tasks for the next day.
When there are things I can't do alone I ask for help (my son or a friend, depending on the kind of work)
 
pollinator
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Excel Spreadsheet.

With columns  

1-10      How valuable is this task to me to get done?    
1-10      How much money will this task make me?
1-10      How much time will this task save me?
1-10      Does this task meet my over all goals?


Example:


img.png
[Thumbnail for img.png]
 
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It sounds like you had a lot working for you before you lost your job.  How did you get things done then?  It sounds like working gave you some outside structure to your day and allowed you to enjoy your time at home.  Now everything is pulling you in different directions and you feel like you are getting nowhere.  It may seem awkward at first but I think making a schedule for yourself may help you feel more centered.  Decide when you want to work in the garden, when you want to clean the house, etc.  Play around with it until you have figured out what suits you best.  While you are doing this, put aside worries about what you will do for a job in the future; concentrate on what you need to do now.  While you are working on something on your list say to yourself or anyone else that attempts to interrupt you, "I will have time to look at that at "x" time; I do not want to give it half my attention so I will do it then".  Put a timer on any task you do; it may be as short as 15 minutes to begin with to make sure you are either stopping when you still enjoy the task or its short enough to get through even if you don't like it.  If you do this you will look forward to returning to the task or at least not dread it.  If the task does  not require much attention listen to your favorite music, podcast, tv program while doing it.  After you have stuck with your schedule for a week give yourself a small treat for doing so.  Continue to treat yourself just for sticking to the schedule, not for what you accomplish.  It is a big job to transition from work to no work; treating yourself to making life easier is a  good strategy to let you know that outside work is not a measure of your worth.
 
pollinator
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Sometimes rebranding a task helps with motivation.

As an example, I hatehatehate pulling weeds!! But harvesting is fun. I started taking 2 buckets along, one for weeds that the chickens can eat, one for the burn pile. Suddenly, it's not "weeding", I'm just harvesting free chicken treats! And somehow, it doesn't seem as hard anymore.

This also gives me a clear cut-off point. I have a chronic pain disorder than kicks in when I overdo something, but when I'm wrapped up in a task I fall into the trap of "just a little more" and wind up paying for it. If I stop when the bucket is full, I'm less likely to overdo it, which means I can do more the next day instead of needing to lay still all day and recover.

Even if all you do is pull one handful of weeds, that's a handful of weeds done. Sometimes that's all you can do. But it is still something!
 
Mart Hale
pollinator
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:Sometimes rebranding a task helps with motivation.

As an example, I hatehatehate pulling weeds!! But harvesting is fun. I started taking 2 buckets along, one for weeds that the chickens can eat, one for the burn pile. Suddenly, it's not "weeding", I'm just harvesting free chicken treats! And somehow, it doesn't seem as hard anymore.

This also gives me a clear cut-off point. I have a chronic pain disorder than kicks in when I overdo something, but when I'm wrapped up in a task I fall into the trap of "just a little more" and wind up paying for it. If I stop when the bucket is full, I'm less likely to overdo it, which means I can do more the next day instead of needing to lay still all day and recover.

Even if all you do is pull one handful of weeds, that's a handful of weeds done. Sometimes that's all you can do. But it is still something!




In one of the books I read a parent came up with the idea of changing the word  "Chores"  for the home to    "Contributing to the household".     so instead of a punishment it was giving to what the home needs.


A change of perspective sure can make a difference.
 
pollinator
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Hugs, Jen.
I love what Mary just said! Even though it feels like the last thing that you want, maybe setting yourself a schedule could help. Not getting things done is a common issue among people who've planned to retire or quit their day job, who don't have the double whammy of involuntarily stopping work like you have. Many people find they suddenly aren't doing nearly as much of the gardening/writing/crafting/side hustle or whatever it was they managed before on top of working full time and commuting. I feel I really need to work more on this.

Also, Ellendra's suggestion. Chunking time, knowing how much is manageable, and setting realistic targets. And celebrating the wins. One handful of weeds pulled is a win.

When I was badly depressed, my counsellor suggested setting myself just one task to do. Forget all the other stuff nagging at you, pick the one thing that you feel is most important, and get that done. Maybe that one thing is too big to do all at once, so if the thing that feels most important to you is a big thing, chunk it down into smaller tasks. The greenhouse repair, for example. That's a big job and needs chunking. So one chunk would be ordering or scrounging new covering. Another chunk is arranging help and setting a time to do the repair - bribe one of the kids or rope in a friend with a promise of some free produce or seedlings. Or maybe a local Scout group would help as part of getting their community work or garden care badges. Another chunk is removing the old covering. Another chunk is any needed repairs to the frame. And THEN the new covering goes on, and you have a usable greenhouse again. Chunking takes a massive I-can't-begin-to-think-about-this task and turns it into a string of smaller doable tasks. Key here is what YOU feel is most important, not what others are telling you you "should" do.

Also, praying for you. Depression is no fun. The most important thing of all to do is to love and aprreciate yourself. You really are managing the best possible given the sucky circumstances. You can't control those circumstances, your old employer laying staff off and the job market being how it is. Being whacked in the face with the things we can't control is a scary, heartbreaking feeling. The way out is to start with the things you can control. And to stop beating yourself up for the things you can't. You aren't "whining". You are asking for help. That's a brave, big, step-toward-healing thing. I applaud you for taking that step.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I don't have the words to express what all of your comments mean to me.  Thank you.  This is why I love permies so much.  Intelligent, caring, , supportive, and useful tools and advice. I know I can post here and get help and or advice on what I need, I can help others, and even get entertained without the negativity of other online sites.  It's all of the amazing people who want to make a better world for all of us, and the world.  Thank you everyone for helping to stop focusing on the negative, and move forward.  Thanks 😊👍
 
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My personal issue is panic attacks; it's an offshoot of what gave me PTSD. Some of the ways I've "outsmarted" it:

Find the things that need to happen every day. Make a point of trying to do them, day in and day out for 90 days. Why? Because after 90 days, you'll have made it into a habit and you won't think about it any more. (For me, that means no more panic attacks when I do the dishes 3 days or more in a row.)

Figure out what you can do while you're also doing something else. I call the dishwasher and clothes washer my "servants." I can start them and then go off and do what I want, while feeling virtuous. The dishes get clean, the clothes too, and I don't have to stand there and do something to make that happen, just at the beginning and end. You can also start bread baking, put stew in the oven, bake something, put something in a crockpot or haybox, or, or...

Group things together that need to get done with things you do anyway. My latest is coffee and unloading the dishwasher. The dishwasher has 3 racks. I drink 3 cups of coffee every day. Our coffee gets brewed and put into an insulated carafe. Rarely is it hot enough for me, especially after I add the milk I want. So, while I'm zapping the coffee back to the temp I want it, I unload 1 rack of the dishwasher. The dishwasher gets unloaded before noon, so that when I'm cooking I can load the dishes in it as I dirty them cooking. Or, I fill the hand wash bucket with warm, soapy water, and put the dishes/pots in there as I go, whatever works best.

But the enemy here is my brain and habits. I don't control the panic attacks, they still control me more often than I care to admit. What I can do is push them off, take it as a personal challenge to find methods which work with my particular set of actions/reactions. I failed more than I succeeded for a long time. But beating myself up about it didn't work. For me, what works is taking it as a personal challenge not to let the things which got me the PTSD/panic attacks run my life now as much as I can. I'm worth it.

So are you.

 
master gardener
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While I do take the time to think things through and make a list. The list, in reality, is one of suggestions.   If I feel like shifting directions, I do so.   One of the pleasures of a homestead is the ability to set my own schedule. So, anytime I feel the list I made has it wrong, I feel free to shift.   I have the pleasure of not having a boss ... even myself.
 
Jennie Little
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One great saying from Everything is Figureoutable: "Progress, not perfection." The way I always thought of this was that I'd move one foot forward -- that a way. And that it counts.

I hate the concept of "baby steps," I find it, as a woman of 60+ insulting. I don't have that problem with the idea of moving forward as much as one foot would take me, the progress idea. One step at a time still gets you where you want to go.
 
pollinator
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Jen, what you're going through sounds really hard. Sending you lots of hugs. I hear you about feeling overwhelmed, I have been feeling that way too and imagine many others are as well. You're not alone! I think your'e really brave to share what's going on for you and ask for help!
It sounds like there's a lot besides the garden challenges going on for you too, it sounds like you are managing a lot already. And having to try to do it all whilst struggling with depression is no small feat. I hear that you feel you aren't doing enough, but I'd challenge you to give yourself more credit for all that you are doing already! Be gentle with yourself!
Humans aren't meant to work through this stuff alone and there's nothing wrong with you for needing help. I'd highly recommend looking for a therapist of some kind to help you through. They don't have to prescribe you meds to help. We all need someone to offer support and perspective sometimes and that's what therapists are great at. If money is an issue, it is sometimes possible to find therapy for free through various programs. It's not therapy, but another option might be to check to see if there's a women's group in your area. I used to attend a women's circle and found tremendous benefit from having a safe place where I could share what was going on for me, be heard and receive support. Here's a wonderful organization that does that (meetings are online now, of course) and is free. Woman Within Circles

When I'm feeling depressed and having a hard time feeling motivated or focused, I like to give myself some time to just do something that feels good for a while. A whole day, even. That might mean gentle yoga, taking a bath, watching silly things that make me laugh, reading a fun book. Putting on some music and dancing, even for just a few minutes is a tried and true one for me. It seems counterintuitive, but I find that by just giving myself that time and giving in to "not being productive" for a while, I actually get way more done afterwards. Self care is important and most of us don't do enough of it. Especially when we have other people we feel we have to take care of. But we can show up so much better for ourselves and others when we take time for self-care! I've also found that staying in touch with friends is super important, even though my depression will tell me that I'm a burden, they don't have time for me, and all kinds of sneaky other messages to try to keep me isolated. But humans need connection! Now more than ever, I suspect. Even if in person visits aren't possible, I find that just a phone call to a friend each week really helps. I even have some friends that we've talked about all those sneaky voices that try to keep us from reaching out and agreed that we can call each other whenever we need to. It's good to have several, that way if someone actually is busy, I can call someone else. That makes it a little easier.

As for what I do with garden tasks, I like to make lists too. Otherwise, I waste a bunch of energy trying to come up with everything each time and forget things. I will write down all the things I need to do and group them by how much time and energy they take. I might add little stars next to higher priority items. Then, each day I look at the list and pick something that feels good and fits how much energy and time I have. I do my best not to judge myself if I don't have the energy for something big. If the list feels too overwhelming when I first make it, I like to go back through and check for tasks where I'm shoulding on myself by including them. Or just things that could be let go. Sometimes, by taking that pressure off, I actually end up finding more energy to do the thing. And if I don't, it's okay too.
You might check out this video, he has some great tips. And just good, relaxing vibes to boot.


Here's a free yoga video that is one of my go to's when I get overwhelmed or depressed. It's more like yoga naps than power yoga. The teacher is great at reminding me to be gentle with and not judge myself. hatha yoga for self care

I know it sucks right now, but I bet it will get better. As Jane so wisely said, you've already taken the first big step by asking for help! Pat yourself on the back for that! Keep reaching out to supportive people, appreciating yourself, being gentle with yourself and trust that you're doing your best (whatever that looks like in the moment).
 
pollinator
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You are not just "overwhelmed", Jen. You are in a funk. We all get that feeling once in a while: Too many things to do, not enough time to do it, and the pressure is mounting..."Why can't I get anything done. Everything is conspiring against me: I want to do X but the tool is broken, or missing", so we wander on and on, endlessly. We blame ourselves, the weather.. blah, blah, blah. We procrastinate.
In zone 4, there is less time than in California to get everything done as our gardening season is so short and the winters are gray from beginning to end. Most days are blah.... I want to do something... but...
It is hard to get out of it.
So,
I give myself some time [1,2,3 hours if I must] to make a list. I make it exhaustive, trying to think of everything. Right now, I even have "pruning the apple trees" and "doing the taxes" which is not going to be possible for another couple of months! Once you see all these worries, tasks, all these whatevers confined to a sheet of paper, these things seem less intimidating somehow. All they take is one lousy sheet of paper. And just listing them is an accomplishment, a roadmap of sorts.
Then I look at the tasks and ask myself: What is one, maybe two things, max, [depending on how big they are] I can accomplish today. I keep my written list by the computer and get started, just on those two. I strike through them when I'm done, or erase them.
The idea is to regain a sense of Ah! I DID accomplish *something*. Because that is really what you are trying to break: It is the vicious cycle of not feeling like you are getting ANYTHING done, and then you guilt yourself into more misery. It is a vicious cycle. It needs to be broken. That is how I do it. It is not so much "prioritizing", which has its place, it is starting to do.
 
Abraham Palma
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@Cécile, I feel like we think very alike!

@Jen, now that you point it out, it's true that all the posts I've read so far, in this thread or the others, are mostly supportive. That oughta be expected in this kind of forums, but it is not always the case.

We have gave you tons of answers based on what we think that is happening to you based on what you have written, but I'm not sure that we have fully understood the situation. You said you are in a funk, feeling depressed, but then you are trying to do projects, and it seems that the problem with them is that you are trying to do too many of them at once. Are they projects or daily tasks you can't finish? Is it that you are trying for the perfect solution and that delays the project to no ending? Is it that you are depressed and don't feel like finishing any of them? Depending on what the issue truly is, you have a different work to do.

I'd take a little time meditating on the problem, so you can say what is really bothering you. Maybe write your thoughts on a paper, so you can reread your thoughts and see if you recognize them.

It could be the mood, as you said. That could happen when your desires and what you are doing are not aligned. Usually daily tasks are not affected, but projects need that emotional impulse to get done. If that's the case, if you have finished a cycle and are ready for another, then you better find what motivates you now.
It could be an overwhelm feeling, that you are trying to do more than you can handle. In this case, very good advice have been given. Small chuncks, to do lists, small victories, so you gain control again. Asking for help if you find out that you can't handle it all by yourself after all.
It could be depression, though I doubt it, or anxiety more likely. Here there could be treatments, but if you are not still too deep into it, you can prevent becoming sick. The trick is forcing your mind into other states, make it feel joy, sadness, love, hate, whatever feeling that is not worrying about your troubles. Just a few hours, then you can worry back if you want. Feeling the worry over and over is what makes you sick, it puts you in a state where you can feel no other thing than the worry and then you need pills.
But then, it could be that nothing is wrong, just a losing streak.

 
gardener
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Lots of helpful, nice replies already! I'll try not to overlap too much.

First of all, a handful of weeds is a handful of weeds! And observing your animals for behavioural changes is important to keeping them healthy. Good work!

I have the same problems you are describing. I was diagnosed with depression about ten years ago, then diagnosed with adhd last year. Seems to be common for adhd in adults to be misdiagnosed as depression, or to miss that the depression is a symptom of their adhd. Knowledge and treatment of both have changed a lot just in the last ten years, but can vary widely by provider. There are some treatments you can essentially do yourself, if you are not into doctors. A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy self workbook has worked better than meds for some people. "The mindful way through depression" helped me the most the first time I was cripplingly depressed. There are audiobook snippets on youtube and the first chapter is part of the google books preview. The first chapter was all I needed at the time honestly. 

ADHD was a surprising diagnosis for me and not at all what I thought it was. Kind of feels like there is a big wall between the knowing part of my brain and the doing part. I know what I need to or want to do and how to do it and how to do it very nicely, the best way, and I say ok let's do it! But that command just bounces off the wall and my body or mouth doesn't move.

If something is fun or super-interesting (to me), then the command might fly over the wall no problem. What's fun and interesting can change, I'll get bored of things once I've mastered them. Losing interest in things you once loved is of course a well known depression symptom so... and constantly failing short of your own expectations, or the expectation of a "normal" level of adultability, that you know you should be doing and should want to do makes it easy to start negative self talk and be really mean to yourself, which again, depression... 

The wall represents a deficit in executive functioning, which includes starting tasks, switching tasks, finishing tasks, prioritizing, emotional regulation, self regulation, inhibition, working memory. Symptoms seem to get worse with age and with hormone fluctuations. Somedays I'm useless and just accept that I will float around the garden in a foggy lump. 

There is also a failure to filter out useless information, so my brain notices every little thing and every little thing can spark many thoughts. So I notice the wrinkle in the greenhouse plastic and might get stuck trying to fix it, when it's not necessary. Most people wouldn't notice or care. I'm trying to tell myself that noticing something isn't an obligation to fix it. But it takes energy to actively ignore things, so putting it out of sight helps.

My medication puts a little window in the wall and almost like magic, my body is listening to my suggestions and things get done. And instead of negative self talk, there is just music and shower thoughts. 

Medication isn't for everyone, and there are plenty of lifestyle tricks to kind of get around the wall. A big one is lists and planners and calendars that lots of others have mentioned. The paper is an extension of your working memory. It feels better just to write it all down and get it out of your head. Knowing I can refer to it later keeps me from trying to constantly check on the list in my head. I write lots of lists and promptly forget about them, there is a list from last year still on the fridge with tasks completed or irrelevant now. 

When I'm overwhelmed with task choices, I ask someone else to pick for me. Or I do a fallback task that always needs to be done and will never be finished, like weeding. Sometimes while I'm doing the fallback, my mind clears. 

A lot of times I have to wait for an external deadline to become urgent enough to propel me over that wall, like a typhoon is on the way so I must put that stuff away. Or someone is coming to visit, so I must clean the house. The house is pretty messy this last year...

Another thing others are mentioning is making the tasks smaller. If I didn't cross a bunch of stuff off my list today, the tasks were way too big. Like silly small, so pruning a tree becomes 1) find the clippers 2) consider the tree and it's future shape 3) clip one branch, any branch etc. Once I start clipping, I can usually finish the plant, it might have taken three days, but finishing one part each day and crossing it off the list feels better than seeing an uncrossed task for three days.  And make sure to add all the other stuff you do all time, like eating breakfast, answering a kid's question, checking on the chickens, taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth. Just because you're not working at a job, doesn't mean you're not using energy, and being hard on yourself uses a lot of energy. 

When you are having trouble cutting yourself some slack, think about someone you love thinking what you are thinking about yourself about themselves. Treat yourself how you want your loved one to treat themselves. 

If your kid needed help and didn't ask you, how would you feel? Also, they don't have to work for free. Money, cookies, the right to name the hugel bed...

Another "trick" I do is to reframe my not doing something into an "I'm seeing what happens if I don't do it" experiment. My not washing the frying pan experiment is going very well.

When you can't possibly do everything in the time that you have, you have to purge some things from the list. What happens if the walnuts stay where they are? If stuff doesn't get pruned? 

An audience sometimes keeps me on task and helps me to start. Someone to bounce ideas off of. I get my husband to hang out nearby, or even get him to start the thing for me and then I'll take over. 

Start small, start badly, or start in the middle help me to start sometimes. 

Change or add to the task to make it more interesting and fun. Sometimes I select one lucky chicken to help me. It's more fun to move dirt around with a chicken thanking you for grubs. Or I can work better with music or a podcast in my ear. Eat cookies while I do it. What works one day might not work the next once the novelty wears off.

Outside accountability, like telling a bunch of people about my project makes me more likely to finish because I feel like they are wanting to see the results. This can backfire and turn into another stressful, self imposed demand though. 

This is kind of counterintuitive, but doing two things at once is sometimes easier than doing one thing at a time. When I get bored or fed up with the first, I'll do the second for a while and then switch back. 

If your list was mine, I would chunk out the greenhouse first. Jane broke it down nicely. And maybe containing chickens at the same time. And after dark possibly figure out a new working surface to start on the masks. Everything else I would probably ignore for now. 

Vitamins and supplements have helped me also. B vitamins, extra b6 (more than 25mg), extra D3 (5000units/day) when I haven't gotten in the sun, omega 3s, probiotics. 

It's hard to settle for fine when you know all about perfect. But fine works just fine and a handful of weeds is a handful of weeds. 
 
gardener
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
Then I look at the tasks and ask myself: What is one, maybe two things, max, [depending on how big they are] I can accomplish today. I keep my written list by the computer and get started, just on those two. I strike through them when I'm done, or erase them.
The idea is to regain a sense of Ah! I DID accomplish *something*. Because that is really what you are trying to break: It is the vicious cycle of not feeling like you are getting ANYTHING done, and then you guilt yourself into more misery. It is a vicious cycle. It needs to be broken. That is how I do it. It is not so much "prioritizing", which has its place, it is starting to do.



I think Cécile really hits the point.
In my former life, I was a project manager. I was good at prioritizing, realistic time management, working off tasks meticulously. In my private life I was chaotic.
I found out I needed lists, but with small, manageable chunks.

But I also found that there were periods, even years, when I simply found no joy in gardening. Right, weeds shouldn't go to seed, but if you just can't summon the energy to weed? So be it. As someone said, cut yourself some slack.
Sometimes the joy comes back slowly, sometimes suddenly. This evening I have installed a wallpaper on my new laptop with a shot of flowers from my garden. What a joy to look at! Wouldn't it be great to have such flowers this year as well? Definitely, so I will sort my seeds tomorrow.

BTW, I would also have linked to the Huw Richards video if somebody else hadn't done so before! Try out what works for you: Getting the most important task done first, or getting a quick and easy task done first for instant gratification. Sometimes tasks lurk there in the back of your mind until you put them down as a task and face them (like that container with food from last week that probably got moldy inside the fridge - I should really check on it, but keep postponing it, do you know that feeling?).

In any case, I hope you have experienced lots of sympathy in this thread and seen that people can relate!

 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thank you everyone.  I haven't made a physical list yet, but I'm going to.  My plan is one list of every project/tasks that needs to get done. I will call it my master list.  Then once a week i will make a to do list.  I'm not going to decide on a number because some things on the master list will take a small amount of time to do, and others may take a large chunks of time, so for those it might be not only the only thing, but maybe I will break it down into small tasks.  Right now I have a list in my head, and have been slowly making progress.  I'm going back to finishing what I start before I move on to something else. For me I think this adds to the stress, because now it's a job I have started that needs to be finished. I will keep moving forward, and try to be forgiving of myself if I have an off day.  I love all my gardens, I will try to picture what it will look like, rather than what it does at the moment if I keep going.
I asked my son about how to fix my greenhouse. (Both of my son's are like my husband.  He can fix anything from the computer to the toilet.  Or could before chronic pain ruled his life).  Anyway he looks at it for a few minutes, and comes up with a plan that is simple, uses stuff I already have, and I think will work great.  It was not only a relief to have a workable plan, but I was impressed and proud of my son.  
I think writing this post has helped a lot.  I got lots of great advice, and tools so to speak, and I will use them.  It also helps to get support, and be reminded others feel the same.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with me. It means a lot. Thank you ❤️.  
 
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having been in a similar position, ie "lost" a job, I feel for you lots Jen. Unemployment is a robber of personality, efficiency and just about everything else you care to mention. No wonder you are having trouble getting things done. I would suggest, rather than making list after list, that you do everything you can to get back into work, even if it is voluntary stuff. Once you are back in the groove, you will find you suddenly can achieve a lot more in less time than before. Once you are up and running, prioritize task by the season as time waits for no one and you can't buy it. I think everyone has tasks they like to do and those they don't, so they dodge from one job to another, this is normal. Also there are tasks that you are not sure you can do well, so you put them off, and thanks for UTube, most things can be learned online. I generally tend to try and think "what's the worst thing that can happen?" and work around it.
Get stuck into that job search and everything else will fall into place.
Sincere best wishes, hope it all comes right for you.
 
pollinator
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I've got a calendar with large spaces to write in, and use it for scheduling things like planting seeds or setting out seedlings that need to be done at specific times.  Otherwise, I keep a running list open on my computer, and erase things as they get finished.  If you have a lot to do, mind-mapping software can be helpful.  I used it for planning a big conference that the office where I worked put on one year (actually, we did it every other year, but the year I was responsible for it, the mind-mapping software was really helpful).  There are several free versions of this -- I've got FreeMind now.  If you haven't used this type of software before, you'll want to play with it a bit before you start on your project, but it's pretty easy and intuitive.
 
pioneer
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When I can’t stay on task, I pray the Jesus prayer over and over in my head while I work: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!” Or a modified version that seems to help even more: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, deliver me from pride and give me self-knowledge!”.
 
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