If you’re anything like me, you have a to-do list as long as your arm most days. It does, however, satisfy you every single time you complete a task. That same feeling that you get when you clean up that room you’ve been putting off forever, that pile of laundry that has been sitting there for months to be ironed, or the bits and pieces that needed to be dropped off in multiple places that have been sitting in your car boot — that satisfaction. I know I’m not alone.
The truth is though that these jobs are simply never finished. There’s always something else that could be done. If you’re not on holidays, there’s typically something that is waiting for you to attend to. Emails, that rough patch of the garden, cleaning, cooking, appointments, grocery shopping, and the list goes on.
A little while back, I looked after my best friends dog Fynn and their home while they went away for the weekend. I planned to get some work done, so I brought my laptop. Made the rookie mistake of not bringing my charger. Considering that the laptop is a decade old, let’s just say it didn’t take long before it died on me. So here I was, in a house, looking after a dog with nothing to do. All I had was my phone and my car, and the dogs (Chewy – our Cavoodle came to hang out as well). I could have gone out somewhere, but didn’t feel like heading out – I’m a bit of a homebody.
Not being in your own space can be a freeing thing
The feeling of not being in your own space can sometimes be really comforting. Your to-do list drastically minimises or completely disappears. At that point, I considered it a blessing in disguise.
I embraced the lack of things needing my attention and just sat on the couch and turned on the TV. Curled up with me after a nice big walk that morning, Fynn, Chewy and I watched some good ol’ fashioned TV. And I don’t mean Netflix or Foxtel, just free-to-air TV.
This time to myself made me realise how highly strung and on-the-go I can get. When I have a million things racing through my head, and it just seems always to accumulate more.
This made me reflect on the last few months of life and how it’s so easy to overcommit and drive yourself to burnout. No one is designed to go go go all the time. No one.
Reminding myself of the importance of practising just being, really drives the point home. Just be. Be in the now. Not what needs to be done next, tomorrow or those plans you made for next week, but focus and give what you are doing now your all.
Go with the flow of the natural seasons
When you think about it, everything that lives has downtime. Reflect on how the four seasons give nature the opportunity to take a break. To rest. Nothing is made to be on all the time. All living things need rest, and that includes us. As much as we like to think of ourselves as superhumans, there’s only so much that our bodies can handle. Be gentle. Give yourself permission to slow down once in a while.
Try an experiment and go with the flow of the natural seasons. In Summer, rise earlier and use that energy of the warmer weather, buzzing surroundings and growing season. In Winter, slow it down, go to bed earlier, spend more time reflecting, taking it easy and rejuvenate.
Your to-do list should also change with the seasons to reflect this energy. But make sure you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
Being present sounds so cliche but it is so important
I heard a little while back someone (the name now escapes me) on a podcast say how powerful it is to be present and 100% dedicated to whatever you are doing at that moment. If you’re always thinking about something else, then you’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy the present.
If you break it down and even started enjoying the most mundane tasks that generally have you reaching for your phone to plug in a podcast or some music, focus on that task as much as you can and give it your all. If you’re doing the dishes, pay attention to how you are washing them, how you may have missed the corner of the glass otherwise if you were rushing through the process or tuning into something else.
This is the best way to practice mindfulness. You don’t have to sit down and meditate if you don’t have the time right now, but be 100% present in whatever you are doing.
Our to-do lists can be never-ending, but at least the tasks that we are doing can be enjoyed along the way.
When you give yourself permission to immerse yourself fully in the task, you will start to feel like you are maximising each task.
Embrace saying no more often
The next step is to start saying no to some of these tasks, either by handing them over to someone else or just turning them down. If we don’t take control of that never-ending to-do list, we will always feel like someone, or something else is owning our time.
We talk about this a lot in our articles and our book, however even for us it’s always a great reminder to remember to bring ourselves back to our mission and capacity daily. It’s not an easy feat.
Saying no can be both paralyzing and liberating. With time it will start to feel like the latter.
Just remember to embrace each task at hand, and you will feel more satisfaction as time progresses.