Putting Some Juice into your To-Do List

I began thinking about making lists when I was a kid. A wooden plaque with pegs and a list of groceries hung on our kitchen wall. I would stare at it while I was eating breakfast, and I can still remember the first column of the list. “Apples, bacon, bread, butter, cereal, cigarettes, coffee, crackers, eggs, flour, lard, lemons, milk . . . .” (That tells you something about the times –bacon, cigarettes, lard?!)

 People use lists in different ways. My friend Libby once told her son how important it was to make lists so that you could cross the items off. She said he looked at her as if she were crazy. And another friend is always pleased to put a new country on her list of places she’s visited. Lists are still helpful to me. I am more organized when I can consult my list during the course of the day. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment to look at the list at the end of the day and see what I’ve done.

 One recent morning I was looking out my window at the mountains and making my list for the day, when I also thought about who I wanted to be that day. Another way of saying that is, “What qualities did I want to bring to the things I do?” That day I wanted to experience joy, gratitude, health and well being, and love. So I made that column one on my paper. My to-do list (what I wanted to do) included writing a flyer for our homeowners association’s long-range planning committee, working on my website, and exercising. That was column two. I didn’t stop there, though, and made a third column on my paper to write down why I was doing those things. I remembered that I was going to work on the flyer about distributing free fluorescent light bulbs because I am interested in our association’s reducing its carbon footprint so that we can be part of the climate change solution. Also, I am involved my association because it’s important to me to support my community and encourage a sense of connection. And I write my blog to connect, to give people ideas and tools to be more fulfilled, and that, I hope, leads to a better world. I want to exercise to keep my body and brain in as good shape as I can. Those are some of my ‘whys.’ In column four I wrote down when I wanted to do these activities. This  four-column list reminded me why I was choosing to do certain things, and what I wanted to bring to them.

 If you want to try this, take a piece of notebook paper or printer paper, turn it sideways, and divide it into four columns. Label the columns at the top Who, What, Why, and When. The first column is who you want to be that day. What qualities are you bringing to the world? The second column is what you want to do, the usual to-do list. Third is why you are doing it. I suggest making the ‘why’ as broad as you can (like the man who was erecting a cathedral as opposed to his co-worker who was just laying stones). In the fourth column put the time you plan to take action. See what kind of awareness this kind of list brings you as you live your day.

 P.S. The day I made this list I ended up spending most of the morning talking to my siblings to make arrangements for a trip we had planned. And I didn’t get to the blog. But I did work on the flyer and take a walk that day. And I did feel more joyful, more connected, and more grateful.