The meme we posted on our Facebook account (“Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.”) got me to thinking.
I’m not doing the best I can. I’m really not.
I write a to-do list everyday. I have a pretty fuchsia-and-turquoise to-do list notepad that I got from Amazon and matching fuchsia and turquoise sharpie pens. I use them every day. When I write my daily to-do list, I only put things on it that I can realistically accomplish in a day, maybe two. So the list is basically one I can accomplish on any given day.
And yet I rarely accomplish the whole list.
If I have a lot to do and am feeling pressure, I’ll get most of them done. But never all. Even if the last couple of things are simple ones that I could easily finish off.
If I am not feeling any pressure? If I have a lot of free time? Most don’t get done. Sometimes none of them get done.
I started writing this post in my head a week or so ago when I first posted that meme, but then I left on a trip and didn’t have time to write my thoughts on this. In the meantime, Susan posted about deadlines. She covered some of what I was thinking, so I almost didn’t write this post at all, but then I realized that the core of what I am trying to get across is not about deadlines.
Anything on my list that has a deadline gets done. Period. I am known at my company for not only meeting deadlines, but beating them into submission, even the “impossible” ones. Clients request me because of this. Colleagues actually slack and give me their work because they know they can’t meet their deadlines, but if those deadlines become mine, I will meet them. Mary and Susan have witnessed this a gazillion times over the years, especially since Mary and I worked at the same company for more than a decade.
So, deadlines aside, to me, it’s about what’s on my plate. How busy I am. I guess there’s some clichés about what I’m trying to say that could illustrate my point.
“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
A paraphrasing of Newton’s First Law of Motion without all of that pesky science-y stuff so that it applies to human nature and not just physics. “A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion.”
And my favorite, by Douglas Coupland. “Too much free time is certainly a monkey’s paw in disguise. Most people can’t handle a structureless life.” (Not only is it a great quote, but it gets bonus points for referencing one of my favorite short stories from middle school English. Okay, not so much favorite as freaked me the fork out and made me think and I still am haunted by the story and its message 34 years later, but who’s counting?)
Yes, I know–it’s lazy writing handing this post off to clichés, but I am trying to point out that I am not the only one who feels this way
So what is it about free time that makes us fritter it away? Why is it more rewarding this minute to play a mindless iPhone game or scroll through relentless social media posts or watch mind-numbing YouTube videos rather than do something fulfilling, something productive, something that you know will ultimately bring you more happiness and fulfillment than winning some stupid crown in a game?
I know I’m going through a weird time right now. I am running up and down the state, supervising construction on one house, cleaning out decades worth of stuff from another house getting ready for an estate sale and move to a smaller property. I have really meaningful, interesting work to absorb myself in.
But when I am not doing those things–which come in ebbs and flows–when I have some spare time to do something really creative, something really rewarding, when I have a day to myself that is not filled with obligations, why do I create a really meaningful to-do list and then ignore it?
How do I make myself do my best when all I want to do is lie on the couch and be useless? Even when I know in the long-run that is going to make me feel worse?
How do I do my best more often?