I have a love/hate relationships with to-do lists, calendars, planners, and anything else that involves checking off tasks. It involves some downright weird behavior.
I am the type of person who will add “make coffee” to my to-do list as I am drinking the coffee I have already made. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I add something I’ve already accomplished to my to-do list. I am a weird lady.
As organized as I may appear, I struggle with the idea that our lives are one big checklist of things we have to do. While there is a satisfaction in washing your car and then congratulating yourself on doing it by marking through that item with a brightly colored pen, it’s not necessarily giving us a sense of personal fulfillment. It’s just stuff we do.
Our lives have more purpose and meaning than going about our day intentionally planning it out so we feel good about doing…things. Doing things doesn’t make me a happy person. Feeling things does. There’s a difference.
We spend way too much time on the checklist of things that we feel obligated to do. The pressure that we feel to do them drives the desire to do them. I don’t like pressure so I asked myself a very direct question:
What if I shifted the concept of what I planned to do each day as a set of means to meet my personal needs?
This isn’t selfish. Taking care of ourselves is not something to be frowned upon. You can do this and get your things done. They are not mutually exclusive.
Every day, give yourself five minutes of reflection or meditation. I’m sure I just lost half of you with that. I understand. I have a hard time meditating, as well. My brain’s off switch does not get flipped very often.
Still, take five minutes. Make the space for yourself. You don’t have to have a separate part of the house that you go to to find your perfect Zen. Grab a damn cup of coffee and sit on your couch in stillness for five minutes. That’s all you need.
For the next five minutes, think about your needs for that day and ask ourself this one question:
What personal or emotional needs do I currently have that I want to see met?
Your personal needs list has nothing to do with what you need to do. You can’t tell me that your personal needs list is going to have “going to the dry cleaners” on the top of it. Going to the dry cleaners is the means to an end. We are not talking about the means.
Focusing on the needs first allows you to plan your tasks in order to meet the ends. Your plan will come later but you can’t get from Point A to Point B if you have no idea where Point B is.
Yesterday morning, I wrote down very simple needs that I had that I wanted to recognize and that I wanted to meet or have met. It look like this:
- I need to do some emotional reflection and healing.
- I need face-to-face connection with a human being that is not a business transaction.
- I need to have some quiet time without noise.
There are plenty of things that are outside of meeting these needs that had to get done today. I had to work eight hours for my job. It’s not necessarily a need. It’s a non-negotiable.
Going to work or making our kids dinner is not part of our daily to-do list. It’s just being a grown-ass adult. If you have to add “feed the kids” to a list to recognize it has to be done, we have a whole other conversation to we need to have.
Once you’ve identified what your personal needs are, you can plan your day accordingly. The beautiful part about that is taking a moment to identify what it is that meets those needs. That’s amazing opportunity for self-care that feels good.
For my self-reflection, I listened to four podcasts today while in the course of driving to work, being at work, and coming home. I chose the podcasts based on topics that were on my mind so I could work through them.
I gained insight into myself, understanding of my emotions, and the feeling that my anxiety is completely normal. Who doesn’t love feeling normal as a sense of accomplishment in the day?
For my face-to-face connection, I had planned on a zoom call that got canceled. So, instead, accepted an invitation from friend to do some serious weight lifting while social distancing in her garage. 90’s hip-hip music was involved. It was the first time I had human interaction in days.
At end of my day, I prioritized taking a bath in total silence. Not a sound. I almost fell asleep in there.
This is how I take care of myself and feel like my day actually meant something. It’s too easy to fritter our days away with stuff. The stuff is the noise.
Your bullet-pointed to-do list should be reserved for work and housecleaning. Your list of things to do for your life to have purpose has to do with living. Make the distinction and you will be infinitely happier.