Are you a list maker? At anytime, I have a daily To Do list, grocery list, To Do later list and other lists of thoughts and inspiration. All the jobs I’ve had included tracking calls and goals and other information. More lists.
Months and years ago, when I first considered a life of self employment, I daydreamed about what each day would look like. I imagined that, instead of writing reports and attending meetings, I would casually drop in on a yoga class, meet friends for coffee, do a few volunteer hours and then put in a few hours of actual work. From there, I might spend the afternoon stirring spaghetti sauce to the soft sounds of Bocelli, while chatting to a girlfriend on the phone. It didn’t occur to me that I would want to do work first.
Fast forward two years, (until last week), when I’ve actually quit my job and am ready to embark on a new life.
I am so nervous that I won’t do something important, that I get out my note pad, and start the one thing that will rescue me … the To Do list. That magical list always saves the day, organizes lives and puts everything in perspective. Or not. Perhaps the To Do list is a distraction more than anything else.
Main Reasons I use a To Do list
- To better manage my time
- To ensure that I won’t forget anything
- If I start a to do list, I don’t have to start something else
As I continue to clear distractions and live with less, my mind is clear. I’ll remember the important things I need and want to do. In terms of time management, I want the joy of engaging in projects that I love instead of living to cross items off a list. Jonathan Mead made that crystal clear to me a recent post he wrote, The Myth of Time Management.
This weekend, as I was about to prepare for the week and unleash all of my anxiety onto a list, I stopped and shouted “bollocks!” Actually, being American, I said, “Oh Sh…”. Nevermind, you get the point. I have a calendar. I know where I need to go and what I need to do to get there, so instead of writing a list about it, I’m going to immerse myself in it.
I realized that my to-do list is my crutch. It’s the place I go when I get scared. It’s the place I go when I am not confident in the direction I’m going. It’s what I do so I don’t have to get started.
Here I am, jumping into freedom yet wallowing in responsibility. Yes, I quit my job, but I have to make a living. Yes, I know there are some things more important than money, but I want to send my child to college. Yes, I’m thrilled that I don’t have to attend another redundant Monday morning meeting, but I do have important work to do. Can I do it without a labourious list?
If we really do follow our hearts, do we need directions?
This week, I am going list free. I’ll keep a hand written calendar, but no lists. Inspired by my sweet friend Tammy Strobel, I am keeping an Illustrated Journal. She wrote about the idea in one of her weekly letters. It couldn’t be further from a to-do list, but it’s a place I start my day with silence, creativity and inspiration. Sometimes you have to replace one habit with another, so instead of starting my day writing down all the things I have to do, I’ll draw what’s in front of me, and write what’s on my mind.
What about you? Could you live without a list?