To-do Differently

Today during my morning meditation I realised how happy I felt. During the last week I’ve been too busy to notice (and too busy to write any blog posts). I think it has crept slowly up on me while I was distracted by admin. It made me wonder, perhaps it’s the admin making me happy?

I do love a to-do list. On both my maternity breaks I had to write at least one list a week, even if it only listed pointless insignificant tasks, other than ensuring my babies thrived. I felt rudderless without it. I know what that says about me, and I accept it. I accept that it’s both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.

My current to-do list is on another level entirely. Items which take longer than 2hrs don’t even feature on it, they are events that need scheduling, so they go into my calendar. The list is 3-4 pages of specific tasks, tabulated into columns by week, and organised into rows by owner (Mark or I). That sublist is split into themes (leaving UK, securing visa, social etc), and prioritised by urgency. Ta da.

It’s a monster. But it’s phenomenonal. And I love it. I love it because it works, and because it’s an artform. The art is to live life as though you rule the list. Do not let the monster list rule you. If something spontaneous happens go with it, sort the list out later. Live in the moment not by the list.

This week we’ve nailed it. Thankfully Mark tolerates having his life organised into effectiveness. I couldn’t do it without him. And over the years we’ve learnt how to make it work for each other. The most important lesson he’s taught me is to include fun. I can’t fight the list, so put fun on the list. My made up rules of listing require me to be more specific than “fun”. Every week I ask myself “what shall I do to make sure we enjoy this?”. So last week for instance featured “take cocktails to BBQ”.

However, in previous weeks I’ve been blabbing on about how it’s not the doing that’s important it’s the being. So what’s going on here with this feeling off happiness? How has it materialised in the face of a monster to-do list? I’ve realised that it’s because I deeply love being busy when I can see that I’m making progress. There needs to be both – busy and progress. The definition of busy is essential. Not stressed, or hectic, or manic, or stretched or overwhelmed. Busy on it’s own is frustrating. What I really mean is occupied.

Next week we have planned a holiday with my family in Italy. I plan to-do less doing. But I won’t be idle, I don’t want to be. I like being occupied. I don’t want to give up on my sense of progress. I’m going to do all the to-do tasks that require sitting down, reading, thinking and pausing. Of course fun features at the top of list next week. It’s both urgent and important that I enjoy being with my parents and siblings while we’re all together in such a beautiful space. I can’t wait.

What I’ve learnt is that there is a line for the list. Don’t cross over the line into being a bossy, pedantic, forceful person. Tame the monster. If I keep healthy behaviors like eating, sleeping, and exercise on the list, basically make sure I look after myself, it means I have the strength and energy to make it happen. More importantly it means I will enjoy making it happen and I will feel happy.

Huh. Who’d have thought it.