I did something unprecedented last week, and when 5pm Friday hit, I felt AMAZING! Last week I made a to-do list with one thing on it. Yes, that’s right. ONE thing. For an ENTIRE week. All. Five. Days. Granted, that one item was going to take about 25 hours to complete, but I made it my priority and I was determined not to add any other tasks to my list until this was done.
A to-do list of 1 is so not my norm. I am someone who, for decades, felt my value was placed on not only how many things I could actually complete in a day, but how many things were on my to-do list in the first place. To winnow it down to one item was unheard of. In my mind, I must not possess enough value if I don’t have to remind myself of all the things to be done, AND be flexible enough for last-minute changes, which invariably will arise.
Oliver Burkeman describes our vicious cycle of trying to solve the challenge of busyness by cramming more into it in his book Time Management for Mortals. Adding more doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t work. (Believe me, I tried 😊.)
Burkeman shares that “when there’s too much to do, and there always will be, the only route to psychological freedom is to let go of the limit-denying fantasy of getting it all done and instead focus on doing a few things that count.”
Last week my list of one was the one that counted. I wanted to add more – to make the list, well, a LIST. But that would mean the other items were as much a priority. So I resisted. Five o’clock came on Friday and I was finished. With my one item. I felt so accomplished and successful when it was done. It was worthy of celebration!
Maybe like me, you pride yourself on a big to-do list. But a big list can be stressful when you know, just looking at it, that the likelihood of finishing is less than 2% - and that’s without sleeping. So this week, I would challenge you – make that to-do list, and then tear off the bottom half. If you happen to finish it on Wednesday, pat yourself on the back for your time management skills, tear up that paper and give it a good Dr. J hook into the garbage can. I’m sure you’ll be able to find another piece of paper to make another list, or you can pull out that bottom half you tore off, cause I'm betting you didn't throw it away ;-)