I am not a to-do list, I am more than that. Which is a relief because, other than my day’s priorities at work, I now refuse to write one. And I refuse to write one because it levels everything to action and arbitrary significance.
I used to write lists avidly. If I’d done it for long enough, I probably would have justified writing lists of lists. I tried systems of columns, of colours, of stars and of checkboxes. I bought pretty books, cheap notepads and everything inbetween into which I would lay these lists. So why did I stop?
I am more than a to-do list, but I was losing sight of that. To meet my overarching consuming desire to be in control (and projecting my value out to the world), I wasn’t meeting my hierarchy of needs. And pretty close to the top is having quiet time for introspection and glorified indolence. One of the legacies from my list days is that I still outwardly call it ‘being lazy’, but in truth, it’s time I desperately need for my soul to remain sane. And when you are writing lists and judging yourself, as you inevitably will, on your completion rate, then you become focused on outcome, not process.
You risk taking the fun out of it all! In a bid to make things happen, I forgot how to play and to flow. Not only that but another judging criteria soon became the length of the list. I would panic if it was short. That meant I wasn’t achieving, I wasn’t useful to those around me, I served no purpose. Yes folks, no matter what was on the list (call home, do washing, get to work alive, save the world), all started to define me equally. And ironically, the moser thinly I spread myself across everything, the less defined I actually became, the more piecemeal I was and the less coherent I was about where I was going. Lists took my world from grand imagination to task hopping, hour to hour. And the more I did it, the more my pillow each night used to whisper, ‘I think there’s more than this’.
When I had my first meeting with a new boss about four years ago, we had a ‘getting to know’ session. And one of the questions, a favourite in the list world, was, ‘where do you want to be in 5 years’? She was of course looking for a career map, some sense of where I was headed and how that might fit in with her vision of the team. And I unfortunately answered the only thing I knew: I want to be happy and healthy. Fortunately, that’s exactly where I feel I’m headed. My list is smaller than it’s ever been, but my sense of self is as defined as it’s ever been. (And sssshhh, but I ain’t a such a bad person. Who knew?) I now do the little things when I think of them, instead of spending that time to add them to a list and my sense of self-worth. I try to do the things I dislike first so I never have to acknowledge them in ink on paper, trees deserve more! And I fully anticipate that sometimes I just won’t get through all that I want to in a day. And that that’s not a bad day. It was just a day that taught me that the world caters for more than what I want. And that’s a mercy.
I am more than a to-do list, because now I’m having much more fun with the kid question instead of the adult question. The adult question has all
sorts of limitations: what do you want to do? The kid question is FAR more fun: so… Who do you want to BE?