Photo source: kaboompics, Pixabay
I love to-do lists. I’ve always had one for the past 10+ years. It’s how I organize my day, my weeks, my months. They were packed with a few fun things, but mostly filled with responsibilities, tasks, chores, meetings, deadlines.
But recently I realized, to-do lists can do more than that. They were not supposed to rule our lives. They were supposed to support our values and help us create a life we truly wish to live.
How did I start changing my list?
a. Books, podcasts, videos have helped me determine what I want. So far, the most helpful material I have read was James Altucher’s 20 Habits for Eventual Millionaires. At first, I thought this list will focus on work and finance. But nope. His list included habits like saying no, loving, spending time with people who are kind to us and love us, doing 1 percent per day and doing something you loved as a kid.
b. I kept listening to my experiences. This is my journey, after all. And only I can tell which messages resonate with my experiences, which paths make me truly happy. So I actually tweak my to-do list as I gain new insights about myself and as I learn new things from others.
c. Recently, I also came across Lewis Howe’s interview with Eric Barker, Decoding the Myths of Success. Barker shared about having a personal definition of success. Some truly happy, successful people also focused on the following areas: happiness, achievement, significance, and legacy.
When I finished my to-do list, I immediately “implemented” it. And here were my challenges.
1. I had to deal with my own resistance. To-do lists, I used to think, were an outline of your responsibilities. I was supposed to be productive for the most part of each day. So I still find myself hesitating as I prioritize self-care, sleep/rest, and having fun EVERYDAY. My brain’s like, “Seriously, we’re playing a game first thing in the morning. This is fun! Uhm, but isn’t this a waste of time?”
2. As in the past, each day was packed with tasks. It was exhausting. So I came up with a more “chill” list. Some tasks would only be done on specific days of the week. Weekends are free days.
3. As I focused on learning 1% on topics I were interested in (or so I thought), it became apparent that I wasn’t happy with them at all. So I took them out of the list, and replaced them with topics I were curious about. It’s a beautiful experiment. I don’t have to spend so much, ex. enrolling on a paid course, just to find out if something is truly interesting for me. Through these little experiments and learning 1% each day, I do not exhaust myself as I continue to follow my curiosity.
Perhaps my best takeaway from the Lewis Howes-Eric Barker interview was that we (well, at least I’m sure I did this) thought achieving goals were supposed to be a series of steps where we focus on only one area at a time. First we study hard, then we work hard. And then when we’re finally stable in our careers, we’ll have more time for our hobbies, our relationships, and for enjoying life.
If this is you, I respect your decision or whatever it is you are going through. In my case, I know that after things fell apart, the achievements were not worth the sacrifices. Some things can’t wait till we’re successful, or already confident, or fully healed of our pain. Most of the focus on career and achievement could be traced to a desire to cover past trauma, pain, and feelings of not being good enough.
I crafted my to-do list and life goals in such a way that the most important buckets are regularly filled, no matter what happens. But what helped me do this was to simultaneously heal my emotional wounds so I could finally reach a space where I don’t need to keep doing and giving just to be valued, just to feel whole.
And this is perhaps my best gift to myself right now: to be able to nurture what truly matters, even if my other buckets are yet to be filled. To finally stop running, and just take a walk through life. To finally live and value both the achievements and the simplest moments.
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