Let’s face it, life gets pretty busy at times. Our to do list gets longer and we start pulling more and more action items through from yesterday. Eventually we get to a point where we are so busy, but exactly what are we busy doing? Catching up?
Somehow, in this world where we have so much to do, we managed to create a life in which catching up is no longer possible. Emails flood our inboxes daily with requests, offers, demands and opportunities, so much so that ‘empty my inbox’ is on many people’s to do list itself. Demands for our time come from every direction and it seems the busier you get, the more people need you to do.
Eventually, we get to a point where our life is dictated by the list. What to do. Who to see. When to call. That list is there because yesterday’s list didn’t get completed, which was in turn supplemented by the previous day’s unfinished tasks.
That’s the funny thing about traditions. They get passed down through the years without people questioning why they became traditions in the first place. Much like our to do lists, we follow our traditions because this is what we did last year and the year before that.
Have you ever traced a tradition back to it’s origin? Some make sense, like the way my mum decorates the Christmas cake the same each year because that is how her mother did it and her grandmother and so on.
However, some don’t make as much sense. Instead of being actual traditions, these old wives tales tend to be based in myth rather than fact. There is actually a show called Myth Busters dedicated to, well, busting these myths.
Anyway, I drift from my point which was that traditions are fine, as long as the origin of the tradition makes sense.
This is the same with to do lists. There is nothing wrong with having a huge to do list, as long as each of your action items is in alignment with the life you want to be living. However, like a game of chinese whispers, whilst your to do list may have originally been filled with creative, challenging and positive activities, this may have become watered down as the influence of emails and demands filtered their way in.
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” – Thomas Merton
Every so often, you need to stop and take some time to check whether the direction you are moving in at 100mph is actually the direction you want to be heading. The last thing you want to do is be highly effective and productive and tasks that are not taking you in the direction you want to be heading in.
This is where the post it notes come in handy.
On a set of post it notes, write down all of the things you value in life and want to experience more of on a regular basis. It may be values such as family, or health, or contribution for example. Create a post it note for each of your most important values, however many that may be.
Now, put these up on a wall and arrange them in order of importance. For example, first should be your most important value, and if you could only have one thing in life, this should be it. Spread them out a bit so there is enough space between each of them.
Next, you have to get a little creative. I want you to write out as many different post it notes, each with an cation item that could go with each value. For example, for my family goal I might write ‘FaceTime call with my nephew’, or for health I might put ‘go for a run’. They do not need to be worded too specifically, just get them down.
Now, your job is to put as many of these action items onto the wall as possible. Go crazy, think of as many brilliant, zany, awesome, wacky ideas as you can that would allow you to experience that value. Get as many as you can onto paper then up onto the wall.
Once you have finished, grab your to do list. Hold it up in front of you so you can see your list as well as all of the post it notes on your wall.
If your to do list does not feature any of the post it note items, you need to stop everything you are doing and make a new list. Immediately.
Yes, we get busy. We all have obligations and responsibilities that we cannot turn away. However, we also have the obligation of living our lives, of experiencing the joy that only comes from living a life on purpose and sharing our lives with those closest to us.
Don’t live a to do list life any more. Live a post it one instead!