And (painful reality check), making a list does not make things happen.
You and I make things happen.
The truth is, To-Do Lists can make one want to yell. They can make one forget the magic of other people’s activities and intentions, because other people aren’t conforming to the List’s demands. To-Do Lists can cause resentment of life circumstances while obscuring the beauty.
I’m a lifelong learner, spontaneous-moment-lover, and unschooler of four kids–which means not only can life not be planned, we deliberately aim to let it flow organically instead.
So, for people like me, To-Do-Lists can generate guilt and frustration, which really wrecks the spontaneity of the moment. I rarely write out a To-Do List. It will only madden me. Besides, there are a lot of ways to get around a personal disconnect from the To-Do List worldview.
- Don’t assign deadlines, just cross things off whenever you get to them.
- Regulate life by the List.
- Exercise copious self-martyrdom and let EVERYONE know how hard life is, that the To-Do List did not get completed today. SO hard. SO sad. (While this is some people’s idea of a fun time, I start to hate myself the moment To-Do Pity creeps into my personal paradigm. Bleah, I turn into such a drag, I can’t even stand me.)
- KEEP A TO-DONE LIST INSTEAD.
I usually have a To-Do List in my head. it looks a lot like Method #1 above. But because the wheel-spinning feeling of “whenever I get there” started to drive me crazy, I decided to trade it in for two other things.
One is a wish list. Every time the future bothers me, or I find myself mulling some unrequited goal or dream, I write it on my wish list. Maybe I’ll get there, or maybe the journey will take me in another direction. Wishes are much less obligatory than goals.
The second is a To-Done List. Here, for example, is my To-Done List from last Saturday:
–Slept 8 hours (this is an achievement for me)
–Took Child #3 for music lesson
–Delivered freezer food to a family experiencing loss (very sad)
–Made lunch and entertained my senile, crabby and beloved grandmother at the same time–takes much energy, one must speak simply and carry the conversation because she’s forgetful and doesn’t form coherent sentences well anymore (draining but satisfying)
–Talked to my parents about their retirement dreams
–Ran out of gas 4 miles from town in a Canadian January with no cell phone, got myself and my 2 younglings rescued, got the car back on the road, got home, dropped off kids, called husband, had meltdown, returned to town on original mission of fueling up car in order to make it to church and funeral the next day. I WIN. HA. Also I feel stupid, but who cares because I WIN.
–Told some people about my publishing project (somewhat nerve-wracking)
–Admired my daughters’ updated wardrobes–always make time for pretty shoes, good karma will result
–Talked to a friend about writing (yay!)
–Talked to very tired, frustrated husband several times–keeping life and each other from going off the rails
–Sat in on husband reading to the kids after supper
–Smooched husband, thus successfully repelling all remaining wandering past-bedtime children
–Went to bed, locked door, ravished husband.
And then I realized that the day may have involved some crap, but I ROCKED that crap. The drained, wiped-out feeling is more often because I lived the day, not because I failed to.
A To-Done List does what a To-Do List can never do. It talks about what really happened today and how you handled it, not what you wanted to have happen and how you imagined yourself handling things that didn’t end up existing.
Things that don’t exist, don’t matter. The things that do exist are worth counting for what they are, not what they aren’t. I would much rather pass that daily value on to my children than the ability to write abstract notions in point form.
Making a list does not make things happen.
You and I make things happen.
That day that sucked? I’ll bet you the Eiffel Tower that you did carpe diem, whether the To-Do List happened or not.
You and I are not our goals, and they are not us. We are people getting down to the business of living, adapting and continuing through change.
So. What’s on your To-Done List?