Lists get a bad rap because they are usually used to create a big line of to-do’s. Then we rush to check off each to-do quicker than they get added on. The conversation at the end of the day often sounds like:
Q: “How was your day?”
A: “Not bad, but I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to.”
I have this conversation so often that I realize that it is silly to even have it. I’m not that interested in how many things get checked off of someone’s list.
But I am interested in that “wanted to” part.
Do you actually want to do everything on your to-do list? Is it actually important to you?
Lists can be helpful because they get the words swirling around in your brain out onto paper. They give them a physical place to rest. And then you can decide to leave them there, burn them, throw them away, or put them to use.
The problem is when we throw things on our list without actually evaluating their importance. It then becomes easy to do the things that are not actually priorities while the important stuff gets pushed to the next day and the next and the next.
I offer you the following practice to evaluate the content of your to-do list. It’s a quick one, but tends to be enlightening.
1) Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle
2) Write at the top of the left column: Things I want less of
3) Write at the top of the right column: Things I want more of
4) Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Write for that full amount of time all that comes to mind.
5) Observe what you created
When you look at the list, what do you observe?
It is normal to discover you give more time and energy to the things you want less of. Which seems really silly when you put it on paper. That’s why it is important to put it on paper!
It’s also normal to discover the things you want more of feel farther away. Like they are wishful thinking dreams that you will maybe one day make time for.
Obviously, that strategy has some holes in it. We act like eating our mushy vegetables first will allow us more time for cake, but in reality, we never actually have time for cake.
Your list may be general and broad, more concepts than specifics. If your “Things I want less of” list contains phrases like, “I want less of my job” or “I want less of my kids” I’m not saying quit your job or sell your children. But I am saying notice that they made your list. What is that relationship, what does it create in you, and why do you want less of that?
This is important to know about yourself. Especially when you are feeling a bit off kilter, not quite like yourself, like you are finding a hard time standing on solid ground.
Take a good look at your “Things I want more of” list. Especially if it looks a little puny. You want some stuff you can really bite your teeth into here. What do you want? Not only that, what do you want MORE of?
Use this information to filter your to-do list. Is everything on that list actually a priority? Is it honoring the stuff you want more of or is it only giving priority to the stuff you want less of?