08 Apr Do One Thing
To-do lists are a pain. I’m pretty organized, but when I look at my to-do lists, I often feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Literally, my heartbeat ratchets up and I can feel my least favorite emotion – stress – sneaking down my spine.
Why is this? Well, probably because it is physically impossible for most of us to actually do what we put on a daily to-do list. Take, for example, my to-do list from this past Monday. It included an ambitious 18 items, everything from “Call Handyman” to “Run 4 miles.” Sad to say, it is Wednesday and I have still not done everything on that list. (I think I’ll take the miles in increments… now, how many steps was it to the fridge?)
So why do we make these lists? Probably because we can’t stand to have all that random “stuff” floating around in our brains. (I’m actually in the middle of reading a phenomenal book about this, called Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is changing the way I look at e-mail and files and to-do lists and all sorts of other informational stuff. More on that later, though.)
Anyway, we’re stressed out about forgetting stuff so we make a to-do list. And then we look at the to-do list and we stress out because there is no way in heck we can do the stuff we said we needed to do. And even if we do manage to do some of it, we’re still stressed and feel like failures because we’ve only done 13 of the 18 things from Monday and have since added 10 more things and on and on…
Let’s give ourselves a break, shall we?
I propose an alternative way to looking at your daily to-do list: Do ONE thing. Yep, I said it. ONE. That’s it.
“Now, wait just a minute here,” I hear you saying. “ONE thing?! Just one? Why, I’ll never get anything done going at that snail’s pace!”
Au contraire. Actually, if you do just one thing, as long as it’s the thing you most want to do, your life will suddenly become a lot less stressful and more manageable. Hang with me here.
You don’t even need to write it down. You already know what it is. Take a moment to close your eyes and just breathe. Relax. When you feel calm, ask yourself, “What’s the one thing do I most want to do today?” Continue to breathe and relax and wait for your one thing to show up. It will.
Then, do it. Whatever it is. Finish updating your website, exercise, contact a realtor about selling your home, schedule lunch with that potential client, play tag with your kids, whatever. The thing is, once you’ve done this one thing, you will feel accomplished. You have done something meaningful. And really, what is the purpose of day-t0-day existence if we don’t perform meaningful tasks?
Once you’ve accomplished your one thing, the rest of your to-dos seem less intimidating. After all, as you’ve already determined, they don’t really matter as much as what you’ve already done. You may do them, you may not. But they don’t bug you anymore and that’s fantastic.
I know this from personal experience. Like I said, I was stressing my to-do list today. I kept adding new items at an equal or greater speed with which I deleted the old ones. I felt anxious. So, I sat down on my living room floor and led myself through the touchy-feely meditation exercise I just asked you to do. What was my one thing? Figure out how to import old blog into new blog. I got up from the floor, did that, and felt such a huge sense of accomplishment that I actually did a dance at my kitchen table. I then went on to do a few of the other things on my to-do list, not all of them. But I don’t really care. Doing my one thing put the most important task into the forefront of my mind and put those piddly little to-dos in their place. “Hotel reservation for vacation,” for instance, was suddenly put on the back burner where it really needed to be.
Another upside to doing my one thing? I am communicating with all of you lovely people from my new blog for the first time!
So go ahead, what are you waiting for? You only have one thing to do, after all.