Gunk of Low-Energy Living: To Do list

The other day a friend said, I can’t walk into any room in my house without seeing a To Do list.

She went on to describe what she sees: CDs in piles, dust, unfinished craft projects, carpet that needs to be cleaned, stacks of photos waiting to be put in albums, an item to be returned to the store, unopened mail, plant that needs repotting, cracked light switch cover, newspapers to be recycled, ceiling fan doesn’t work, clutter on the bookshelves …

The room is not a place to retreat to and relax in. It’s not a place to be.

Instead, it’s a nagging energy drain. A visual reminder of falling behind and coming up short. A manifestation of an overwhelmed life.

Your environment is not neutral

It’s either giving you energy or draining your energy.

When you’re in your home—ideally a refuge from the world—and all you see are undone items on a To Do list, your energy is being depleted. Plain and simple.

You have two choices:

  1. Stop noticing and being bothered by the undone To Dos—a feat harder than it sounds. It goes back to your environment not being neutral. As long as you continue to notice undone To Dos and feel nagged, guilty, and overwhelmed, they are a drain on your precious energy.
  2. Address these pesky tolerations and eliminate them. Aka: Get the To Dos done.

Obvious, right?

But it’s amazing how day after day, week after week, month after month we allow these energy drains to persist. We don’t have the energy to take care of the very things draining our energy, which creates a vicious cycle.

Clearly, something has to give.

Three steps to more energy

Here’s a three-step approach to tackle niggling tasks and unrelenting energy drains.

  • Pick a room in your home where all you see is a To Do list. If there’s more than one, pick the room that’s the biggest energy drain.
  • With notepad in hand, walk around that room and write down every single toleration and To Do that’s been nagging at you.

This step is all about getting a vague hodgepodge of energy drains clarified in black and white. Rest assured, even if you end up with a hundred things on your list, knowing is better than not knowing. One hundred is a lot, but it’s not “everything”. I call this step looking overwhelm in the eye. Or at the very least getting tangible, factual, and finite about what’s draining your energy.

  • Pick a plan: Slow and steady or Massive action.

Slow and steady

In the interest of slow and steady, what’s the smallest step you could take that would qualify as progress? Identify one small, doable step. Now take it.

OK, now what’s the next very small step?

Think in terms of an action so small and doable that it would be nearly impossible not to have the energy to undertake. And then another. And another.

Sure, it will take longer going this route, but it breaks the cycle of not having the energy to take care of the very things draining your energy. You interrupt that self-defeating cycle by sustaining ultra-small, ultra-doable actions.

Massive action

The alternative approach is massive action. Sit down with your notepad and put time estimates next to each and every item on your To Do list.

Break larger To Dos into substeps to come up with a more realistic estimate of the time required. For instance, let’s say you want to have a room professionally painted. This might involve researching vendors, contacting your top two choices, getting estimates, checking references, making a decision which company to hire, scheduling the job, overseeing the work, making payment.

Once you’re done estimating time for each To Do on your list, add up the overall time. Now add 50%.

That’s right. Add 50% more time.

We’re notorious for underestimating how long things take. Then we get discouraged when it takes longer than anticipated. Adding 50% more time is a reality check to prevent discouragement from stopping us in our tracks.

Now that you have an estimate of hours, decide exactly how you can take massive action and get everything on your list handled as quickly as possible.

  • For instance, if your list totaled 12 hours, could you spend six hours on both Saturday and Sunday and knock it all out?
  • If you estimated 8 hours for your entire list, could you take a vacation day from work and clock in at home for 8 hours to put an end to the energy drain?

Yes, this approach requires massive action. But along with massive action comes energy-giving motivation and energy-sustaining momentum.

I can’t walk into a room without seeing a To Do list is a very low energy way to live.

It erodes the potential your home has to replenish and restore your energy when you walk through the door.

Don’t be willing to live in a depleted state. You deserve better.