i get it. you’re trying to be productive and focused with your little list and complete every item before the East Coast feed of your favorite show becomes available online. all you wanted was to show those tasks who’s boss and settle in for a new episode of Homeland.
but you blew it. and now, unable to cross off everything, you feel a sense of failure, loss, shortcoming, shame, and stupidity. like you mismanaged time and disappointed yourself. maybe there’s also frustration over the disruptions that stole your attention.
now, if you ever hope to get the leftover things done, you have to manually re-write or copy/paste them into a new day of your life. gross.
recently, i began combining outrageous to-do lists with brutal time-management techniques and accomplished…piles of work. industrial, biblical amounts.
so i began front-loading my list with eight or nine time-consuming, hardcore tasks for a single day so i could seamlessly move to the next action while on the clock.
know how many times checked everything off the list? once. the rest of time there were stragglers. strangely, i didn’t worry about the unfinished business. i didn’t need to. because i’d transformed this perceived failing—the uncompleted to-do-list—into a benefit.
leftover list items are the starting point for the next day. think of them like a diving board—only there to move you forward, and you decide how and whether to use it.
so instead of assuming unfinished work is proof of your inadequacy, think, “it’s just information, telling me exactly where to head tomorrow, not proof of impending doom.” see the unfinished list as your map for the direction you’re headed.
because what happens without a map?
- tentative meandering
- arguments over the merits of stopping for directions versus trusting the Maps app
- boasting over having “been here before”
in short, time is wasted, nerves are frayed, and while it’s cute to chirp about the journey being more important than the destination, this is not the moment.
another example is traveling (with me). i always have at least a tentative plan for the next day. we don’t have to follow it, but it’s there to avoid waking up, staring at the ceiling, and trying to decide what to do.
don’t you want to make the most of your time on this adventure called life? i certainly do.
of course the trip includes wandering down side streets, chatting with locals, and visiting sites chosen at random. i’m down for all that, but a loose framework keeps the experience from devolving when you discover the planetarium is closed on Tuesdays and that the amphibious duck boat employees are on strike.
here’s another perspective on unfinished items:
they’re proof your work isn’t over.
you’re needed. you have to come back tomorrow.
there’s more to be done. there’s always more to be done.
isn’t that life affirming? your purpose is staring you in the face. you’re on the right track. keep going and moving forward. the project of your life continues.
think of it as a modification of the Lowell Lundstrom motivational quote i sometimes appreciate but mostly roll my eyes at—“if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
for our purposes: if you finish your to-do list, it isn’t long enough.
besides, what would you do if there were nothing on your to-do list? you’d be so bored. i know it doesn’t seem that way. boredom may sound like the best way to spend your life. but it’s not a long-term solution. if you stay put, you die. bust a move, already.