You Are More Than The Sum Of Your To-Do List

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I am a great lover of to-do lists. The satisfaction of crossing something off for me is a high, so much so that (don’t tell anyone) from time to time I may have written a few things on the list that I had already completed just for the pleasure of crossing them off. I keep my to-do list on my counter where I can jot down anything that comes to mind and not forget that I want to do it. Occasionally this has meant that my to-do list is longer at the end of the day than at the beginning, as I’ve kept adding things all day but only been able to get a few of them done.

The problem with this of course is that with a mile-long list we have so many options for things to do that when we go to choose what’s next we might not be choosing the most important thing. Maybe we tackle the little stuff first because it feels easier to get motivated to do those. Maybe we only take on tasks that take a few minutes so that we can cross more things off – the whole quantity over quality game. Even though we feel really busy it can also feel like we’re treading water. As if we’re crossing things off but not really making any substantial progress towards anything.

Here to help is the idea that less is more. We’ve all heard that phrase before and it applies to your to-do list too. Instead of haphazardly jotting down everything on your list that comes to mind (as I so often have in the past!) you write down only the three most important things to get done each day. This helps you to focus on the really important stuff and not feel pulled in so many directions. If you don’t want to loose all of those other great ideas you might keep a separate place for writing them down and you might even get to some of them. But each morning when you are planning your day try to think about what three things will move you in the direction you want to go the most and focus on getting those done first.

To take this even one step further, I think it’s helpful to spend some time identifying not only what’s really important to us in our lives as far as what we want to get done – but also how it is that we really want to feel.  You can cross every last thing off of your list but if you are completely stressed out and unhappy the whole time than what is the point! The majority of this whole life experiment takes place inside our heads. I know that might sound a little silly as we physically move through the day but our mind is always filtering, always analyzing, labeling, interpreting, seeking. It’s also extremely creative. If we give it a task instead of letting it run loose wherever it feels like it will often come up with the solution.

So if at the beginning of each day we can set an intention not just for what we want to get done, but also for how we want to feel – energetic, positive, friendly, loving, confident, calm, present, creative – your mind now has a job to do alongside your physical body. Each time you feel yourself drifting off to another place, maybe feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or upset about something the trick is not to beat yourself up about it but instead to acknowledge it, allow it, and then remind yourself of the intentional feeling that you set for the day. Take a deep breath and reset.

If you can do these two things; 1) Limit your to-do list to only the most important 3 things and 2) Set an intentional feeling for the day, you will be a powerhouse! Getting the most important things done and also feeling the way you want to feel.

On a final note I’d just like to put a plug in for having days that are to-do list free. This is something that does not come naturally to me but my husband has helped me embrace over the years. Make room for things you love, for creativity and wonder. Let there be days that take you on an unexpected adventure without planning it all ahead. Some days are just made for that! It’s like that Greg Brown song, “Love calls like the wild birds — it’s another day. A Spring wind blew my list of things to do away.”

A Day of Wellness CoverIf you would like a little help in setting your day up in an intentional way that will help serve your health and wellness you are welcome to use my free Day of Wellness Worksheet for inspiration – just click on the image to download it. It’s intended to take just a few minutes each morning to help you focus on what’s important.

I hope you have a beautiful intentional day!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

Got the Blahs? – 5 Simple Steps to Help Get You Out of Your Funk

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I know the feeling. It’s that feeling of overwhelm, like there is so much on your plate that you just might get swallowed up and yet with so much to do you don’t quite know where to start or have the energy to do it if you did. You start to get grumpy with the people around you, it feels like the universe just might be conspiring to make you crazy. Is this what you signed up for?

Listen, I’ve been there. So if you are feeling that way right now, today’s pep talk is for you. If not tuck this formula into your back pocket for when you need it. We are going to kick that blah feeling right out of here! Here is your challenge today:

  1. Start the day by doing something loving for yourself – It’s not selfish or self indulgent, it is setting the tone for the whole day. This could be brewing yourself a cup of tea and making time to just sit and drink it quietly, taking a shower with new soap that you love, getting some exercise, meditation, journaling, reading a chapter of a good novel. Whatever it is that feels like self love to you do it! Here’s the catch. If you have kids that wake up at the crack of dawn or you have to be in at work by a certain early hour this might feel impossible. I’m telling you now. It’s worth setting the alarm clock earlier.
  2. An act of love for someone else – Okay, you’ve gotten up. You’ve reminded yourself that you are a human worthy of love and done something to prove it. Now it’s time to spread that around. Tell your children specifically why they are amazing, make your husband a cup of coffee when he’s not expecting it, text your friend to let her know you are thinking about her. It seriously takes almost no time at all, but can make a huge difference in that person’s day and magically I promise it will make a difference in your day too.
  3. Do one small thing – Here is the thing to remember. Sometimes just getting started is worth a lot more that starting in the “right” place. In fact I personally am not convinced that there is a “right” place. I think sometimes we get so hung up on getting it right that we just get paralyzed instead. Sometimes any progress is enough to break us free of paralysis and get us moving. So stop and think about the big picture for a minute and then pick one thing that moves you in the right direction. One drawer to clean out, one chore to complete, one phone call to make, one email to send and see where that takes you.
  4. Go outside – Now you’ve made a little progress. Good job! It’s time to go outside and breathe some fresh air. I know that you think it’s too much work to get the kids bundled up, or that you can’t pull yourself away from your desk and computer. Listen. It is ALWAYS worth it. It might be pouring outside. You are still going to feel better after getting out and moving. In the workplace there can be this funny culture where people are worried that others are going to think they are shirking their duties. I even felt that when I worked for an environmental education organization whose whole point it was to get people outside more! But do it anyway because not only do we all deserve breaks, being outside and moving for awhile will actually clear your head and make you more productive and creative. Take your boss with you on a walking meeting if you have to.
  5. End the day early and with gratitude – You’ve done a good job. Top it off be taking some time to appreciate the good parts of the day. Take it one step further and write them down. Recognize the ways in which you are truly blessed. Now turn off the phone and get to bed early so you will feel rested enough to get up and make time for yourself again in the morning. Repeat from step 1.

We all have times when our energy is low. When it feels like inspiration hasn’t visited for awhile. That is totally normal. But when you get to the point where you don’t want to feel that way any more it’s time to make some changes and you have the ability to do it.  They don’t always have to be major. I know sometimes it might feel like you need to overhaul your entire life and move to Italy to study bread baking (whoops, that was one of my fantasies), but often the smallest shifts in our actions and thinking make the biggest difference in our lives.

Be happy, be healthy, be well.

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