I would wager that barely a day goes by where you are not at least partially driven by a to-do list. Whether scribbled on a slip of paper, stored neatly in your phone’s database or merely a memorized inventory of all that you need to accomplish, you move from one task to another. As you cross each item off the list – laundry, gym, phone call to the bank – you feel a sense of accomplishment. But all too often, that feeling of achievement is short-lived as you look back down at the ever-growing list of tasks that need attending.
To-do lists are important. They keep us organized and productive. They help to maximize our time and ensure that necessary items are addressed.
To-do lists are important.
But they are not everything.
Because we are so much more than simply the tasks we accomplish. Our value is found more in who we are than in how much we can cross off in a day.
I used to be the self-appointed queen of the to-do list. I had them at work. I had them for home. I even had them for down time. I would hurry through each task so that I could cross it off and start the next. I got quite a bit accomplished in those years. But at quite a cost.
As I was busy with my to-do lists, I neglected the most important matters in life.
I forgot to be.
I was merely hopping from one duty to another without much time to pause or even be present with the task at hand. My body would be engaged in one chore while my mind would be planning the next. I would run myself ragged until at some point, I would simply collapse from exhaustion. It was no way to live.
It took quite a wake-up call to pull me away from the security of my to-do lists – a 16-year marriage that ended with a cold and callous text message. When those few words appeared on my phone’s LCD display, I lost everything that held meaning in my life.
Including the to-do lists. It no longer seemed important to make sure that all of the test papers were graded by the next day. It was no longer critical to wash dishes as soon as they were sullied and a coffee date with a friend took precedence over getting the laundry done.
My priorities shifted from getting through to building relationships and appreciating the moment. I learned to balance the need to “do” with the experience of being.
Being loving and being loved.
Being mindful and in the moment.
I crafted a “to-be” list and posted it next to my computer – a reminder of what is truly important in life. It’s a different type of list; the items are never meant to be crossed off and completed. And as long as I accomplish what is listed on my to-be list, it is a good day. Even if there are still dishes in the sink.