Tweaking the To Do List

I have been a list person for as long as I can remember. My lists ranged from the mundane “take a shower” to the extreme “pay off debt”. But one thing they all had in common was that they were lists of things I had to complete before I could do anything I wanted. As an obsessive list maker I also had a list for those other things that I’d like to do; go for walks, read a book, see friends, etc , but this list was my day dreaming – they were only to be realized after all the “To Do” lists were complete. The rational of course was that “Once I finish x,y,z, then I can do all of these wonderful things that will make me happy and healthy”. Funny, but no matter how hard I worked, that day never came.

For a long time I didn’t see the problem with this; I just accepted this as the way the world works, and continued to be frustrated with the amount of crap to be done, and my inability to get through it quick enough so I could finally move onto the good stuff.

Once I started concentrating on self-care, these healthy things (go for walk, meditate) were added to my To Do list. It was a step in the right direction, but they still ended up being things that weren’t “Have-To’s”. So, if I didn’t get the dishes done, they didn’t happen.

There was one day in particular that I remember. I was frantically cleaning the house all day and before I knew it, the day was over and I hadn’t finished in time to go for my walk. I had completed everything on my to do list, except for this walk. When my husband got home from work I proclaimed in frustration that “I feel like I didn’t do anything today”. Clearly, this wasn’t true, but what i came to realize is that because I didn’t get to do the one fulfilling activity, I felt empty.

At the time I felt like a failure because I didn’t make it through my To Do list in time to get to the healthy walk that I had been looking forward to. The real issue, of course, is that I should have been prioritizing my To Do list very differently. I have since learned that you need to start with the “make it or break it” activities; the ones that have the biggest impact on your well-being. Sure, having the dishes done is nice – but I now know that if I get to meditate and spend time with friends, I will still go to bed with a smile on my face- even if the sink is full of dirty dishes.

Replay the same type of day, but this time I was aware just how important that walk was to me. I knew I needed to prioritize it so I started my day by going for a walk. The result? I felt fulfilled and I was able to complete the rest of the tasks without the pressure to rush and the fear that I would end my day feeling depleted.

So first, make sure to add those fulfilling activities to your To Do list,  if you don’t already,  and then prioritize them.

Sometimes I make a “Have-To’s” category and now I make sure to add those “Make it or Break it” activities to that section. Is it just as important as paying the power bill? Damn straight it is.

The next thing to look at is the reason for doing anything on your To Do list. This is all about prioritizing based on VALUES.

live your values

Now, before you can truly do this you need to clarify what YOUR values are. If you don’t yet have a good idea, I encourage you to take a look at InspiredLivingMedical’s blog posts: (Clarifying Values) and (What we all need).

Over months of exploration I have discovered that my values are; TRIBE, CREATIVITY, GROWTH, HEALTH, BEING PRESENT, CONTRIBUTION, as well as AUTHENTICITY, VULNERABILITY, and COURAGE.

So what do these things have to do with that list you scribble on a post-it Monday morning? The answer is EVERYTHING!

For every item I write on my To Do list, beside it I write the VALUE in it.

“What’s the value in this?”

Adding values to your To Do list highlights the importance of every activity; clearly marking them so you can see why you are doing the things you do, and this then helps you prioritize.

When you are dedicated to living your values, it’s harder to ignore those To Do items that may at first seem frivolous, but are indeed very aligned with your values – and therefore should not be pushed to the back burner.

For example, if you see “Go to movies with friends” and you are strapped for time you may think to yourself “Oh, I can just skip that”; but when it’s written “Go to movies with friends – TRIBE it’s harder to scratch it off because you know TRIBE is important to you.  By having the VALUE right in your face, you can make more informed decisions on how you spend your time, and ensure you are living your values.

Even if you choose to remove a valuable activity to complete a less valuable activity (washing dishes), you will at least be more aware of the choice you are making, and have a good understanding of why you may feel more depleted. The more aware we are, the more we can do about it.

Comparing your list of values to your To Do list is also helpful. If one of your values is CREATIVITY, but you either don’t have a creative item on your to-do list, or you never prioritize it, this gives you the opportunity to change that.

Here’s an example of one of my To Do lists from before Christmas. It’s messy, but it’ll give you an idea of what it can look like.

IMG_0932

If you have a chance to try any of these strategies please let me know how they work for you (perhaps even a To Do List show and tell??). I’d love to hear about your experiences and any other tips you have for making To Do lists.

 

Hard is Hard. Complain about Broccoli and Hang Up on Insurance Scams

Society seems to have caught itself in this web of lies that makes everyone feel like we are all competing for a limited amount of “real” and “justified” pain – and the authorized support that comes with it.

We compare ourselves to others, we compare others to others, we compare real situations to fantasy – we fucking love to compare. And depending on how that one person’s situation (or our idea of it) stacks up against whatever we are comparing, we judge whether we/they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way.

toothbrush

People can be seen minimizing themselves and others all the time in this comparison war. Listen carefully.. it usually starts with “at least”.

One of the most clear, and repulsive, examples of this I witnessed was a discussion in an infertility support forum – an area that was specifically designed to provide support to those who were struggling. The desperate call for support was from a lady who recently miscarried, and the responses to her struggle went a bit like this; “Sorry you’re having a hard time, but at least it was early, let me tell you – miscarrying later is way more painful”, “I’ve had two miscarriages, be thankful you’ve only had one”, “I know of someone who had a stillborn, can you imagine how much harder that would be??”  When you see it laid out like that, it’s absurd! Why do we feel this incessant need to compare, judge, and only give support when it’s “earned”?

5583650926_c1033b88e4_b

Would it be acceptable to go up to a man who just lost both his arms and say, “Hey, at least you can walk”?

And if you think you don’t do this, double check with that voice in your head. So often we are our own bully. We don’t give ourselves permission to feel what we feel – we wind up down the comparison spiral in a heap of guilt, we try to rationalize with ourselves until we feel crazy (because despite our “logic” it doesn’t stop us from feeling), and we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve support because “it’s my fault” or “I shouldn’t feel this way”.

bully

There will always be something that could be called “worse” -but that DOES NOT mean you can’t feel shitty about your stuff. You have every right to own your experiences and you 100% deserve support.

Turns out you don’t have to feel guilty about hating broccoli just because there are starving kids in Africa.

Ash Beckham says it best – I strongly urge you all to watch her TED Talk

“..there is no harder, there is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard to make us feel better or worse about our closets and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.”      Ash Beckham 

The ridiculousness of this trap that we find ourselves in reminds me of my call centre days. My job was making cold calls to sell dismemberment insurance (you can just imagine the fulfillment this provided 😉 ). I remember having to explain to the poor fools who hadn’t yet hung up on me that they would only qualify for the money if they lost two limbs, “You can lose one eye and one arm, or one leg and one arm… and you need to lose them both from the same accident.. and it has to occur at the scene of the accident, you won’t qualify if they later remove your leg at the hospital.” Clearly, a scam. So why in the world do we buy into this  “you only qualify for support if you meet these ridiculous criteria” when it comes to our feelings? It’s no less of a scam, and it’s time to hang up.

We have to contest the whole premise of needing to earn the right to be upset. We can do this by giving everyone permission to own their feelings and provide genuine support and empathy. No more comparing. Furthermore, we need to tell ourselves that we have a right to feel this way and we do deserve support – despite what we’ve been told or what the voices are still shouting out from the background.

Go ahead, hang up on that sleazy insurance broker and curse your veggies without guilt.

kids-hate-vegetables

A Beautiful Consequence

Taking the leap to share this blog was certainly one of the greatest acts of courage and displays of vulnerability that I have taken so far. The love and support I have received from doing so has moved me more than I could ever hope to express through mere words. Beyond this, I have noticed something else powerful happening. It seems that this act of opening up has created more space for other people’s vulnerability, and inspired more sharing, and connecting on a deeper level.

Realizing the beautiful consequences of creating such space, has in turn allowed me to be more aware of opportunities to create and experience that space in other areas of my life. Last night I was lucky enough to watch experience a dance performance; it was a true demonstration of how beautiful vulnerability (and the courage behind it) can be, and it moved me to tears. I am so grateful to the artist for sharing it with me, and am so happy I was able to experience it from a space where I was able to appreciate the depths of its beauty.

IMG_0891

My reaction to the idea of sharing in the past has been that it is selfish and wrong, I felt this need to pull back and shut my mouth in order not to burden others. A big part of my vulnerability practice has been fighting that urge and quieting those voices. The more times I push past this, the more open my eyes become.. and I’m starting to see what’s really there. What I imagined would be a very individual process has become something much more expansive.

It seems that the more you open yourself up, the more you give everyone around you the space to do the same. Your authenticity becomes a sign to the world that “Yes, you can bring your true self here, it’s safe”. You not only give people permission through your actions, it seems that you in fact encourage them too.

IMG_0894

I used to think the best way to support others was by telling them that they can open up, while I stayed a closed book. I thought it was about being quiet and ready to listen – until I opened my mouth. Never in my life have I felt so trusted, and received such openness from people about their stories and emotions then I have by showing my own vulnerability first.

The connection that grows in this space is beautiful, and bearing witness to other people’s acts of vulnerability and courage is incredibly inspiring. There’s really nothing quite like connecting with someone as your most authentic selves. I didn’t understand this until I felt it, and it has significantly changed my life.

IMG_0890

I urge you all to explore (or continue exploring) your own practice of authenticity and create this space – I’m sure you’ll be amazed at what grows there.