I love a good list. The satisfaction of knowing what to do and then ticking it off. I also love organisation and efficiency, and this has always been noted from my first work as a Stage Manager in theatre through all my professions. I recall that my most pressured legal job I had a constant list of 70-80 active matters (that doesn’t include the sub-lists of each matter). I was content with this list of work and, also, accepted that my work day could mean achieving 3 of those 70 would be a highly accomplished day! If you wanted something done I was always a reliable person to ask.
In the first 5 months of my injury I was advised “choose to do less”. Two and half years into my injury I realised that my ‘to do’ lists were still too long, but most importantly these lists did not include rest and time in nature – acts to nurture myself. Unable to unravel my need for a list, I purchased a paper diary and set a maximum of 5 things I could do per day with the goal of doing only 3 of them. My neuro occupational therapist advised that this was still too many, but it was progress for me. This approach drew to my attention my efficiency relapses – I would do items not on the list or be ‘hyper-efficient’ and perform 3 or 4 days’ worth of my list. But then I noticed that the days following my ‘hyper-efficiency’ were low mood or harder to get things done – ‘hyper-efficiency hangovers’.
Those lists of “I must do” or the job that “only I can do” are so easy to distract us from what we truly want. They overwhelm us and contribute to the whirlwind of anxiety or depression that we are unsuccessful in our life. It also fills the ego with a sense of importance that the task will not be done (or as well) if not by you.
I wanted to fully recover yet my ‘to dos’ distracted me from true rest, that would help me recover. I still wanted to feel that I was of some value, productive; and my ego was hiding behind this all. I chose my to dos based on what made me feel like I contributed to society and this did not include my health. I love community and giving, so it is important to me to contribute in my tasks, yet I must address that some of this is also my ego that wants others to be grateful for what I do – validate and appreciate me.
The truth is that if you don’t do something then it may not get done because it does not need doing, or it may get done by another in their way – just be ok with that. The only responsibility you have on your to do list is to make yourself happy. Because if you are happy and well, then you will be more productive and sharing with those around you.
As I travel I have lists still – writing this blog once a week is a ‘to do’. However, I no longer am in my community and my tasks are how I choose to help others or myself. I prioritise feeling happy over accomplishing an item. My daily item is ‘space for me’ this can be a workout, meditation, walk, sunbathe but it is important that it is time alone and a nurturing activity. All else that I undertake is because it makes me happy to help another. To take this out of my travels and throughout my life will be a key lesson to always have as number one on my daily to do list.
How To Do Less:
You must make a choice about what you want to do with your time in this life. When adding an item to your list, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you truly want?
- Does this item contribute to what you truly want?
- Why does this item need to be done by you?
- What drives this item being on my list?
- Ignore social media, emails and texts – unless it is a life or death emergency, it can wait.
- Leave other’s alone – let them judge, be disappointed or even respect you. Don’t do their stuff for them, it’s their life so let them work it out.
- You can have it all, but it will cost you something bigger than you realise. So perhaps accept that less will give you more in the long run.