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- Achieving Balance
I’m currently experiencing a lot of changes in my life: leaving the military, selling my beloved house, moving to another state, and looking for new job. Needless to say, life is hectic. It feels like one big to-do list, and few of the tasks are real pleasures.
Even outside that kind of change, modern life seems obsessed with project management and getting things done. Consider blogs such as Stepcase Lifehack and Simple Productivity. Amazon offers scads of books on everything from getting organized to overcoming procrastination.
So when I got the following “letter turned guest post” from Everyday Bright reader and fellow Brazen Careerist Sadya Siddiqui, I knew I had to share it. In my opinion, it’s nothing short of brilliant.
Dear Dr. Jen
Today I checked off an item on my to-do list. So what’s the big deal you’re wondering? You see, it’s been on my to-do list for 9 years. No, it wasn’t really a big goal. So how did it feel when I checked it off? It felt…well, I didn’t feel anything and that left me a bit perplexed. Wasn’t I supposed to feel elated, perhaps a sense of accomplishment at the fact I actually got rid of that nasty one-liner on my ever-increasing list of things I didn’t do? Did I become something, having accomplished that one action item, did it put into perspective the bigger goals of my life, did it teach me the lesson that I unnecessarily procrastinated something that could have been done years ago? All of these profound questions led to one answer: Nah.
What is the one thing that Gen-Y inherited from Baby Boomers, Gen X and the United Nations? To-do lists! Who invented them anyway & why has there been no upgraded version of it? Most of us are ingrained with the belief that it is only when you finish all the action items on that list you can call yourself productive. How many of us truly believe that we will, at some point, become wholly productive & excellent time managers? It’s like looking at fashion magazines and saying someday I’m going to look as thin as that model & wear clothes that stylish. The model is airbrushed; those clothes will probably be out of fashion by the time we save up the money for it. So really what are the odds of you & me accomplishing each action item and saying I no longer need to read all those self-help blogs on how to be productive?
A to-do list is a constant reminder you are lagging behind. It’s like your mom telling you “why haven’t you picked up your clothes, you’re gonna be late for school again, no snacking before dinner,” which is why when we do not accomplish the items on our lists, we have a ‘nagging’ feeling. As a result we compromise our experiences–when we watch a movie instead of writing a blog post, we gets pangs of guilt throughout the movie. What’s worse is that we wanted to watch the movie to de-stress from that beast of a list.
Dr. Jen, life is short, so make a to-be-what-you-want-to-be list instead. Wake-up every day & make a list of the To-be and then a list of the To-do. You’ll see that the to-do list will be shorter this time. And if those action items aren’t making you into something, why are they on your list anyway? I compared my To-be list with my To-do list and only 2 items matched. It made me sad. That list I make for “everyday” is keeping me away from all that I want to be.
It also made me realize Shakespeare really was the personal development guru of his time: every time I feel the need the check my horoscope on 5 different websites, I recall his words “the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” So when he says “to be or not to be, that is the question,” I say: you’re damn right it is.
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