I used to have a To Do list.
OK, to be honest, I used to be ruled by my To Do list. It reigned. Supreme.
I was its oh-so-humble servant, and we definitely had a love-hate relationship.
On the love side…
- I loved how writing things on my To Do list gave me an initial feeling of control. It felt like I was bringing order to my world by writing things down.
- I loved the near-euphoria of realizing I’d done something that was not on my list. Quickly adding whatever task I’d just done to the list, I would then promptly and with gusto mark it off. Ta-da!
- I loved the feeling of drawing that definitive line through a To Do that was done. Look at me: I’m accomplishing things. I exist. I am worthy.
On the hate side…
- I hated how my To Do list was impossibly unrealistic in terms of actually being able to get everything on it done. Starting each day with that list as my GPS was a deflating energy drain, plain and simple.
- I hated the visual proof of seeing that no matter what I did, it was never quite enough. There would never come a day when every item was marked off that list.
- I hated how sneaky my To Do list could be in seducing me to tackle the low-hanging fruit that were easy to dos—and therefore relatively quick to mark off—rather than focus me on the more important, but often more complex, priorities.
So I gave up my To Do list. Or maybe to be more accurate, I gave up on my To Do list.
I didn’t like how my To Do list made me feel
Through all the haze and drama of my love-hate relationship with my To Do list, I realized I didn’t like how it made me feel. Forget about productivity or time management or prioritization, I just didn’t like how the blasted thing made me feel.
I also didn’t like the person I became around my To Do list—always trying to prove my worth, never living up to some imagined ideal, always coming up short.
All the earmarks of a dysfunctional relationship, right?
A simple question
So I broke up with my To Do list and in its place is a deceptively simple question that guides my day-to-day: How do I want to feel?
Believe it or not, that question can get the To Dos done.
So here’s how it works: At the start of each day, I ask myself how I want to feel—and then I do the things that will allow me to feel that way.
That second part—doing the things that will make me feel that way—might seem overly obvious, but in the beginning I found myself asking the question and hesitating, faltering. Could it really be as easy as simply doing those things?
Which means asking the question is only half the equation. Really having the confidence to follow through with the associated actions is the breakthrough.
I’m done with taskmaster
Sometimes asking once is enough for the entire day: All my actions stem from that initial, intentional question about how I want to feel. Other times, I find myself resetting throughout the day when it turns out I’m not doing the things that would actually produce the desired feeling.
Either way, I’m not a taskmaster about it. I’m done with taskmaster.
Coming from a curiosity-filled place and asking, How do I want to feel? has become second nature. While there’s nothing to mark off a list, there’s an intentionality to my days that’s been life-changing.
If you’re reading this and thinking, Yeah, great for her, but I could never do that, why not? I urge you to give it a try.
Put your To Do list away, ask yourself how you want to feel today, and then do the things that make you feel that way.