My to-do list: It's not what you think it is!
Your to-do list is really a travel brochure.
My plate is loaded. Full up. Spilling over.
I have so many projects in the air, I’ve been suffering major brain buzz. I hardly even know where to start.
Now, life coach and writer Martha Beck has a great article on how to unhook yourself from a to-do list. I think she actually suggests scheduling “empty time” in there.
And I know my life is so much more than a to-do list. One of her clients, on her deathbed, jokingly said, “At least this is one more thing I can cross off my to-do list!”
But I needed something more. Something that felt more like my whole approach to life. And this morning, I found it.
I was writing my morning pages–the “brain data dump” I try to do every morning. Sure enough, “more things I have to do” kept popping up as I wrote, and I dutifully added them to today’s ever-growing list. It’s already so long, I couldn’t possible complete the tasks in a week, let alone a day.
With a big sigh, I started to prioritize my tasks. What could wait? Which ones were more important? Which IS more important–the ones about my family? The ones about the latest foster puppy? The new open studio tour I’m working on? Cleaning my studio so I can HAVE an open studio? What about my upcoming surgery? Should I focus on getting healthy? What about my phone date with Lyedie this afternoon? (You can read more about integral coach Lyedie Lydecker here and read my article about her here.
Ah. Lyedie. What was that she said about time?
It’s not about priorities. It’s not even about balance–balancing family time with art time, friend time with exercise, pet care with health care.
It’s about awareness, and intention, and engagement.
For me, it’s about crafting a whole life. Seeing, learning, participating, growing. Not sideways(sigh), but inside-ways.
That’s when it hit me. What my to-do list really is.
It’s a travel guide for my life.
It’s not an AAA road map. It’s a list of possibilities.
Priority be damned.
Some of these tasks aren’t high priority. But they also won’t take much time or effort. Or I can do them on my way to another, “higher priority” task.
Some are totally unimportant. But I like doing them. They look like work, but they are actually fun.
Even some of the most important ones aren’t necessarily time-sensitive. They’re big, but they can wait. And sometimes, they can’t happen until other smaller, simpler steps are taken.
But what really blew me away today was thinking about the unimportant, quick, not fun, actually dreaded tasks on my list from a week ago.
It involved picking something up from a person I’ve had totally negative encounters with. This person is sarcastic and resentful, in a job they hate and not getting the recognition they feel they deserve.
I thoroughly dreaded the pick-up, and had to force myself to do it. Actually, I did it first because I wanted to get it over with.
I decided to be my higher self for just a few minutes. I said I was sorry for the circumstances behind their donation.
And the walls of anger came tumbling down.
I’m sorry to be so circumspect, but want to protect their privacy. Let’s just say that I saw another side to this person, a totally different aspect of their life that blew me away. They opened up to me, sharing their sadness and joy, their dreams and hopes.
It turns out I was able to speak to that in a way that encouraged and supported them. I gave them the small thank-you gift I’d prepared, and they were delighted and grateful.
Now, the point here isn’t that all people (okay, almost all people) have an inner beauty, if only we knew where to look.
The point is, this was an item on my to-do list I’d dreaded. And it was actually a door into something powerful and profound.
There was a connection, a reconciliation, a new way to interact with this person in the future.
And it all came from a place I never could have predicted.
Now I’m sitting here with that same to-do list.
It looks different. It doesn’t seem to fill me with as much anxiety. Time doesn’t seem like a upside-down bottle of sand with grains running out the bottom.
It looks like a travel guide to a mysterious, exciting and beautiful new country, a country I’ve wanted to visit all my life..