To-do lists are a great a tool to get things done. Most of my days are controlled by them and I accomplish much more with them than I would without. The strength of to-do lists is that they focus on ACTION; as is so often the case, the strength is also the weakness.
Where this weakness becomes most evident is that application of to-do lists to time outside of work. A weekend list might look like:
· Do the laundry
· Go to the gym
· Write an article for Medium
· Clean the house
· Bike ride
The focus is on action. I’m disciplined enough so that if something hasn’t been crossed off I’ll narrow my focus until it is. What hasn’t been planned on my list is time for those most important to me — my fiancé, my dog, and myself. It’s very possible to plan a personal day that there isn’t anything personal about it. And that’s so especially if I start to add actions like:
· Hang out with Katie (my fiancé)
· Take Finn to the dog park
What can happen is that the action becomes paramount to anything else. By doing I can cross the item off my list. Yet doing involved only the quantitative, the easily measurable. This doesn’t’ take in others and doesn’t plan for experience that will be shaped be free-form human contact. Relating to my fiancé, myself and even my dog involves feelings, and emotions not quantifiable measurements.
The to-do habit can make it difficult to just sit on the couch next to Katie without having specific things to accomplish. To relax my drive for a few minutes and just listen, respond and take in — that’s what we both need. For me that’s not easy to do. I am so used to converting everything into action that as soon as I start to listen I start to solve, to come up with action steps just as I do at work all week. My fiancé doesn’t need action steps; she needs to be able to shape me, to have me pliable enough and open enough to take her in without instant judgment and action.
Add this to your to-do list: ‘No action’ time with those you love — nothing should be accomplished.
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Originally published at medium.com