- Make appointment for the DMV
- Pick up prescription
- Fold laundry
- Book restaurants for family’s upcoming holiday
- Refill the dog food
- Update your magazine subscription
- Get your oil changed
- Grocery shop for next week
- And the list goes on and on and on……
Does your life sometimes feel like one long to-do list? Waking up in the morning and immediately thinking about what you need to check off the list, and going to bed at night thinking of new things to add to the list that you’ve forgotten or failed to accomplish. If so, you’re not alone.
At any given moment the average person has 150 tasks on their to-do list (Baumeister, 2012). 150 TASKS! That may seem like a lot, but think of all the small things you add there (refresh the flowers, get Dad’s birthday card, etc.) and bigger ones (redesign your website or (learn how to build a website)) that all add up. Even if you think you don’t have as many as 150 tasks, chances are you have a fair amount of things on your mind (or on a physical list) “to do.” But living life between the check marks on your to-do list is a recipe for dissatisfaction, burnout and exhaustion.
If we’re simply focused on moving from one task to the next, we miss the beautiful moments in between. The brief “high” or satisfaction you may feel from crossing one item off the list can be quickly diminished once a new item is added to the list.
Don’t get me wrong – having a to-do list IS NOT an inherently bad thing. It can be helpful for organization, productivity and generally getting the things done that must be done. But the key is not everything MUST be done. Some things can wait (e.g. the earth won’t collapse from under you if the laundry doesn’t get folded today). Also, when to-do lists become obsessive or the rulebook by which people live life, there’s signs of deeper questions at play – what does this say about our need for control in an inherently unpredictable life?
The fixation with “control” can easily spill over into other areas of our lives – needing to control our food, movement, bodies and relationships. The need for control is frequently a coping mechanism for living in a messy world. However, what’s actually in our control is far less than we think. Living with the mess can be uncomfortable but it’s also where the moments of surprising beauty can creep in and shock you. Sometimes we need to recognize and honor what’s in our control, and have grace for what isn’t.
With this in mind, I urge you to think about ways you can “un-do your to-do list.” What does this mean? Pick out 3-5 tasks on your current to-do list that you could remove for the day. I promise, the world won’t fall apart at the seams if you do so (though I can empathize that sometimes it may feel that way!). The world will keep spinning. And while you take a breath and stand in place, you’ll be amazed what you can see and feel when you’re not spinning with it.
When you let go of some tasks on your to-do list, what does that make room for? It could be time to connect with loved ones or simply time to let your body and mind rest. If you’re interested in kicking off the process of un-doing, try these journal prompts to start:
- What are 3 things I can release from my To-Do list today?
- If I wasn’t crossing things off my list, what would I want to spend my time doing?
- How can I find a way to intentionally create space for these things in my life?
In our busy world it can feel unnatural to simply unplug and rest. But it’s so necessary. So many things when on the edge of burnout can only restart after they’ve been unplugged for a bit. If you’re interested in exploring ways to reconnect with yourself, book a free consultation with one of our therapists by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC