The To Do List That Never Ends and Why It Doesn't Matter

Yesterday, Sophia and I came home from the supermarket with enough shopping to see us through the weekend.  Within 5 minutes of being in the door a new shopping list had begun.  After lunch I washed up; by 2pm there was a new pile of assorted dishes.  And I genuinely can't remember the last time I saw the bottom of the laundry basket.  Writing now I have five tabs open and am simultaneously trying to schedule social media updates, write this, send invoices, pitch for work, and reply to over a hundred work enquiries.  STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF!!!

My mind is constantly full of everything there is to do; the tyranny of the to do list.  Phone calls to make, errands to run, appointments to make - and keep!, and there never seems to be time to do it all.  My 'to do' lists could fill the Encyclopedia Britannica and I feel like I'm constantly running to catch up.

But... hold on a minute...  I walked out of the 'normal' world six years ago.  No more alarm clocks, no more restrictions, no more keeping-up-with-the-Joneses holiday/car/home ambitions.  So why I am still on this treadmill?!

The children won't remember that the laundry was up to date, all the little jobs were done, and everything was in its rightful place.  And are any of these things really a priority for me?  No, of course not.  Playing, gardening, learning, reading, spending time in nature, these are the things that gladden my heart and nurture my spirit, not washing up!

Of course we need a roof over our heads, food to eat, clean clothes, and an acceptable level of cleanliness.  But beyond that, it's about prioritising what's important.  And here's my revelation: We will never have everything done, there will always be a to do list, and that's OK.

Somehow I've moved away from choosing the scenic route through life lately; moved away from slowing down and being mindful.  I've joined in with the busy-ness of modern life, the hurrying, and listened to the eternal quest for 'more'.  I'm not sure how I've let this happen, but a big step back is required.  I need to re-prioritise what matters, and it isn't my to do list!

We're on holiday next week, so lots of nothingness and unproductivity, and lots of fun and memory-making.  Time in nature, time playing, time enjoying the journey not yearning for the destination, time as it should be.

When we come back I have just three things on my to do list:

- One real priority: sort out the kitchen lighting with some of the great designs at Lampcommerce, although we could need a partial re-wire first :-/

And then:

- Ignore everyone, well not everyone, but anyone who wants to judge, anyone who wants to tell us what we're doing wrong, anyone who wants to criticise our home/life/opinions/actions.  So what?  We're happy, peace man.

- Maintain holiday philosophy in real life, put up a mental 'do not disturb' sign and get on with enjoying life!

You could call it my light bulb moment.

Photo credit: Artemide Tolomeo

It may not seem like it in this frenetic, over-achieving, high expectation western life, but we are all in charge of how we spend our time, how we want to live, and what we believe is important.  If a lease but never own new shiny car, a designer kitchen and a credit-card-bought foreign holiday twice a year is the sum of your ambition and what makes you happy, great.  But take some time to make sure it really is all you want, before you sacrifice everything else for it.

Make a 'to be' list, make a 'memories to create' list, make a list of places to take your kids and fun things to do with them.  Re-determine what success is.  Don't let your to do list come before your kids, or your stand and stare time.

Move away from the mindset that one day you will 'make it' and your to do list will be gone.  It ain't gonna happen, even if you win the lottery there will still be a to do list.  You will never reach the end of it, and that's OK.  Step back, do something better, be happy, choose happy.

Your goals now aren't the finish line and they never will be, but creating new smaller dreams and achieving them regularly is do-able.  Don't compare, don't envy, don't ascribe huge personal value to financial or material assets, don't bring work home or spend hours on cleaning.  Spend your time wisely, prioritise for you and who and what you care about.

What brings you joy?  What would you spend your time doing if you had no financial restrictions and no need to work?  Do those things NOW, even in a diluted, achievable form.  Love to travel?  Backpacking round Cambodia may not be possible this month, but a day trip to a new city or a weekend away probably is.  Do it, book it, love it.

Love taking photos?  Use your phone or your old compact, don't wait for your dream mega lens camera.  Love to cook?  Do it.  Love to read?  Do it.  Love to run?  Do it.  Make the life you have now your perfect life, don't wait until you earn more money/lose weight/have a partner/whatever.  Change what you need to in life as it is now to make it happier, better.  Small changes will have a big impact, and once you start it just gets easier and easier.  Don't wait for your dream life to begin, make it happen now.  Choose happy.  I am.

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