My normal routine at the beginning of the week, usually sometime on Sunday, but maybe not till Monday morning, is to sit at my desk and plan my week. I start a fresh page in my notebook dedicated to lists and schedules and review what I had planned to do the previous week, but somehow didn't, my "leftovers" list, and what I need and want to do in the coming week, which I label "New This Week." Sometimes, as in the past week, I create a "writing" list and usually as the week goes on there is an "add-ons" list, based on things that come up during the week. Then there is the "Future" list, too, and that keeps growing, but last week, I am happy to say I accomplished a couple of those items, as well. Give me a gold star!
I know this is obsessive, and I know many, many of you function just great in your life without making written lists, but I come from a long line of list makers, and it is what works for me. My challenge, no surprise, is to divert from the list and to not be hard on myself when I don't check off all the "must do's." I am working on that --or should I say "playing" with that.
The Gift of Lists
What I know is that I often feel overwhelmed, but when I write down my list, even ridiculously long ones, life feels more manageable to me, and I am better able to determine priorities and even to let go--at least just a little bit.
Recently I found a quote from Patrick Ross's blog, The Artist's Road, http://artistsroad.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/turning-your-to-do-list-upside-down/ that helped me breathe a little easier.
I am feeling overwhelmed by too many things to do.
But is it possible that I am in fact blessed with an
abundance of things I could be doing?
He went on to quote an entrepreneur coach, Molly Gordon.
I no longer had the problem of not enough time and
balancing my life with my work; I had the gift of
more than enough to do.
During the early weeks of healing after breaking my ankle this week, I had no To Do lists, and my calendar was quite empty. Which would I rather have? A totally empty calendar and a nonexistent list or a calendar with a variety of events and appointments and a list that stretches onto the next page? Well, obviously, some sort of balance would be nice, but I am grateful to once again have "the gift of more than enough to do."
Lists and Choices
The more than enough to do comes with choices. Do I want to do this or that? How do I really want to spend my time? I remember a journal exercise I used to do quite frequently during the busy child raising, working full time years. I would make a list of what I had to do today and then a list of what I want to do today and somehow by doing that I made room for something I really wanted to do without sacrificing what absolutely had to be accomplished.
Now life is far more flexible for me, but it is still challenging to move my interests and desires into a prime position. When I do, I am proud of myself, and I feel so much better. The question is what prevents me from doing that more often? Old tapes that keep on playing, I suspect. Tapes about self-worth, and productivity, and living up to expectations, my own and those of others.
Earlier this month I set three intentions for myself -- to live stronger, more spontaneously, and with greater mindfulness. (See http://clearingthespace.blogspot.com/2014/07/thursdays-reflection-happy-new-year.html ), and as I write about my list-making propensity, I wonder how I am doing with my intentions. Well, I walk almost every morning and sometimes again later in the day again and do the prescribed exercises for flexibility and strength in my broken ankle. I have more energy than even a month ago, a sign I am rebuilding my strength.
I hope I am improving my ability to be spontaneous and mindful, too, and I know that is more possible when I use my lists as a spiritual tool, instead of the list using me. When I remember, the list is an aid to keep me awake and aware and not a cage with its own lock, and I am better able to live fully.
The weekly list can become a prayer list. I lift up the names of those to whom I need to send an email. When I pay bills because that is the next thing on the list, I give thanks for the ability to pay those bills and sit in a moment of silence for those who live in poverty. When I make plans with friends, I rejoice in the gift of friendship and the ability to laugh and play with others. Each item on a list can become an entry point to reflect on some aspect of the life you are living.
Yes, I repeat, I am obsessive about making lists, but isn't it time to embrace our quirks and let them work on behalf of the person we were created to be? May it be so.
Are you a list-maker or do you rebel against making lists? Either way, how can your habits deepen your spiritual practice? I would love to know.