Our Relationship with our ‘To Do’ list

“If I could only get my arms around my To Do list, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed!”, is a common sentiment for many of us. We live with the belief that our inability to ‘get everything done’ is primarily a function of some faulty time management skills.  I don’t buy that anymore.  I think we are saying ‘yes’ to too many things we don’t care that much about – because we have a belief that we can’t or shouldn’t say ‘no’.

Take a look at your week ahead.  Is there something on your calendar that you are dreading?  Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”  Sit with it for a few minutes and try to get past the initial answer that is some version of “Because I have to – I have no choice.”  Is there a conversation floating around in your head that sounds something like

“If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

“I will be perceived as a slacker if I don’t do this.”

“She’ll be mad at me if I don’t do this.”

These are simply our assessments, often ungrounded, around what others will think or do.  We typically don’t stop to check in with folks to see if our perceptions are true or if there are options for renegotiating the details of the commitment.  “I know I said I would plan the next family reunion, but I think I am going to run out of time.  Let’s talk about a different way to get this done.” or, “The project I am working on is growing into something much bigger than I expected.  I’d like to talk about bringing in some additional resources so we can meet our deadline.”  

The commitments we make are intimately connected to the expectations we have of ourselves. (“I should be able to do this.” is the most common theme) And, we live in a society where being over booked and continuously busy is a badge of honor.  Protecting our time, whether it’s self care time, creative time or family time takes real courage in a culture where productivity is so highly valued.

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