Is your to-do list making you crazy?

January 26, 2018

For most of my life, I’ve kept a to-do list. I found great pleasure in crossing things off that list. So much so, that I’ll even admit to sometimes adding things to my list AFTER I’d done them, just so I could cross them off. Am I alone here?

For years, I believed the list kept me focused and productive, and each day I felt proud of all that I’d accomplished. The only problem was that somehow, I never finished my whole list. In fact, the more I focused on my list, the longer it got. I found myself hurrying through my days, thinking about how much I needed to get done, but always feeling that I could never get it all done. The more I hurried, the more stressed I felt. What’s worse is that the really important things seemed to always be at the bottom of the list. I couldn’t get done what I really wanted to do because I had too much to do! Sound familiar?

At some point in the past few years, I became aware that my to-do list was making me crazy. If you’re a list-maker, I’m taking a wild guess that it might be making you crazy too. You don’t have to write your list on paper to be a list-maker. Many list-makers just keep their lists in their heads – constantly thinking of what else needs to be done.

Why do we spend our lives feeling the pressure to get things done and the guilt of not getting enough done? Why are we choosing to rush through our lives, causing ourselves to feel stress and even panic? Why do we go through our days making ourselves feel like there’s not enough time? I actually know I’m not alone. Every woman I know has some form of this running her life. My understanding is this: we think that we can only feel good about ourselves if we are productive.  Somewhere, somehow, we’ve been taught that our worthiness is linked to our accomplishments. But we never stopped to ask ourselves – is this true?

Let me answer that for you – NO! We were born worthy. As babies, we didn’t need to DO anything to be worthy of love and attention. When did that change?

I’m not suggesting we all sit at home eating bon-bons. Of course, there’s work to be done, no matter what stage of life you’re in. I’m just saying that we don’t have to be so attached to our lists. We can slow down. Take a breath. Take a bath. Take a nap! We don’t have to accomplish anything before we take care of ourselves or before we do the things we enjoy. We don’t have to DO anything to be deserving of love, attention and care.

I worked with a client recently who exemplified this pattern.  This woman told me that she loved stitching more than anything.  She loved it so much that it filled her with excitement, happiness and joy.  But when I asked her how often she stitched, she admitted that she rarely got to do it.  According to her, she didn’t feel like she “earned the privilege of doing something fun.” As ridiculous as that sounded to me, I realized that I’m guilty of this too. Are you?

What if instead of all this obsessing about our accomplishments, we chose to focus on doing the things we love? What if the swirling to-do list in our heads was replaced with being present to the moments before us? What if we DID the things that fill us up and give us joy? How would that change us? How would that change the way we experience time?

I’ve been experimenting with this for the last year, and I have to say, life has changed for the better. I’ve completely changed my relationship to my list. These days, I write down only the important things I want to accomplish, and only the things I’m afraid I’ll forget to do. All the rest, I leave off the list. Most weeks, I have less than 10 things on my list - for the whole week. Guess what? Since doing that, I feel like I have more time in my days. I’m not as rushed or as stressed. And I’m actually getting more of the important things done. Guess what else I’m getting done? Things I like to do - like having conversations with friends, snuggling with my kids, reading for pleasure, hanging out with my husband. The more I consciously enjoy my life, the more JOY I find.

 

Finally, having this approach to life can also impact your relationships. How? When you understand you don’t have to DO anything to be worthy, you realize your loved ones don’t either. They shouldn’t have to DO anything or ACHIEVE anything to receive your love and attention. One of my favorite things to say to my kids is this: “Do you know what you have to do to make me love you? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.” The same goes for my husband. Talk about transformation! 

 

Ready to give it a try? Revamp your list! Give yourself and your loved ones permission to feel worthy WITHOUT accomplishing a thing. Focus on the enjoyment of your life, not the accomplishments of your day. And let me know how it changes you.


Love and light,

 

Mendy

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