Saturday, June 23, 2012

TO DO: Write blog entry...

     I made a new year’s resolution, like a lot of people.  And mine is to stop doing something, like most resolutions.  However where most people want to stop biting their fingernails, stop overeating, or stop drinking soda, I resolved to stop doing something that’s actually common and useful and good: making To Do lists.

I realized one day, as I was making such a list, that in the time it took to write the list, I could have accomplished two things on it.  Here it is:

Clean bathroom
Order Sunday school books
Kid’s calendar
Badges for scouts
Hem Elliott’s pants
Clean out fridge
Grocery shopping – price match list

First of all, as I said, in the time it took to write that, I could have started a load of laundry and ordered the books.  Then I realized I had effectively put “make another list” on the list, which seemed ridiculous.  I have to remind myself to make another list? Really?  Did I need that much affirmation that I am busy? Or is making a list making me feel busier than I really am?

One of the key points in Anthony Robbins’ book Personal Power is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people.  THEY DO THINGS.  I know, right? It’s so simple it’s a smack to the back of the head but then half the people who read it, myself included, go right back to NOT doing things that will make them successful.  I procrastinate, make excuses, mess up my own priorities, and do things that make me feel like I’m getting things done when I’m really not, like making lists.  I heard an interview with filmmaker Kevin Smith a few months back.  When he was young, he told his family he was thinking about making movies.  His sister told him, “Don’t think about making movies.  Just make them.”  And of course, the best line from all the Star Wars movies is Yoda telling Luke, "Do or do not.  There is no try."

Oh, I know there are things that I have to write down in order to make sure I don’t forget them.  I have a calendar for all the appointments and kid activities, and I write notes to myself when I hear a good plot line or have a good idea for a character. But a To Do list suddenly felt like exactly what it was – an excuse to avoid those chores for a while longer. 
        I’m all in favor of writing things down, really.  I will continue to jot down quotes I find inspirational and tack them up on a bulletin board or the fridge.  I will definitely write down ideas I have for stories, and I’m sure I will make notes to myself in meetings about things I have agreed to do. But I’m going to stop allowing myself the excuse of a making a To Do list for ‘chores’ around the house and just DO the chores.

I will focus on my I-Beam results.  This is the I-Beam exercise they teach at Franklin-Covey seminars.  The teacher chooses someone from the audience who has small children.  She tells them to imagine they are on the roof of a very tall building on a very windy day and there is a narrow steel beam that forms a bridge between that building and the one across the street.  There is someone on the roof of the other building.
          “What would you cross the I-beam for?” the instructor asks.  “The other person has a bag of money, say… $100. No? What about a million dollars?”  Most people say they would probably go across the beam for a million. “What about one of your children?” she asks.  “They threaten to toss your child off the roof if you don’t cross the beam.  Would you go then?”  Of course, the answer is yes.
The teacher then breaks the tension in the room by saying she has to choose someone with a young child because parents of teenagers sometimes hesitate…

The exercise helps you figure out your priorities – what would you cross the beam for? Those things are your biggest priorities, and should get the most of your time and energy. My I Beam things are family, faith, friends, and finances.  I affectionately call them my F Words.   

Everything on my list is, in some way, related to my priorities.  But really – why didn’t I just put Elliott’s pants next to my bed with the sewing kit on top and work on it before I go to bed every night? Why did I need a written reminder to do this small thing for my son?  And cleaning the bathroom is something I should do not just because it needs to be done, but because my husband deserves a clean bathroom, too.  Even if he does make his share of the mess. 

The more I thought about it, the more silly it became to write down something like clean out the fridge.  Did I really need a reminder that no one was going to eat those leftovers and the next time I opened the door I should just toss it?  I used twice as much time and energy writing it down, throwing it out, and crossing it off as I would have just doing it.

Yes, I know – believe me, I know – how satisfying it is to cross things off that list. But again – is that necessary for my emotional well-being or is it another excuse to avoid doing one more thing?  It sure feels like an excuse to me now. 

So, no more To Do lists.  If I have my priorities straight, it will get done. If I forget anything, I know several people I can count on to remind me.  And they will – Elliott asked me every day about his pants until I finished them. Every day...

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