Are you a list person?
Do you get a thrill when you look at a long page full of activities and tasks that you plan to accomplish?
Are they categorized, color-coded with little boxes drawn beside each one so you can check them off? Or maybe you highlight them or cross them out as you complete them.
At the end of a productive day, do you smile at your accomplished long list, seeing it as a trophy or a badge of honor, knowing you had done well?
How long do you spend making that list you may or may not complete? And if you don't get through it, is there a roll-over and a bit of depression – not a fun day, huh?
I am here to advise you to throw away your to-do lists. I know, I know....it's a time management thing. And I get it, you want to make sure things get done you might forget about. I also understand the intention to have productivity, making sure tasks don't get lost in the shuffle. However, lists and deadlines can also be potent procrastination tools and act as an addiction.
The satisfaction of ticking off a small task is linked with a flood of dopamine. Each time your brain gets a whiff of this rewarding neurotransmitter, it will want you to repeat the associated behavior. ~Ralph Ryback, Psychology Today
It's like sugar, an almost never-ending merry-go-round of ups and downs in mood, a cycle of reward and emptiness.
Too many times we crave another feel-good moment, our brains often encourage us to complete a low-level task instead of something that really matters, just to get more dopamine and a false sense of joy and satisfaction. Too often we are avoiding the projects that are often the true game-changers.
I have post-it notes on my computer and hard copy ones on my desk, and I get quite a thrill in their completion, especially the crumbling it up to toss it in the trash can or deleting it from my computer screen.
It’s not that keeping a list of things that you need to get done is a bad idea. It’s the fact that people run their days on their to-do lists. That’s what’s very harmful. ~Nir Eyal, behavior design/productivity expert
Experiencing flow in your day-to-day work, no matter what that particular day is like, is an integral component of creativity and mental/physical health. And surrendering to the moment will usually boost innovation, meaning, engagement, and productivity.
As we declutter this month, I want to encourage something more important than doing...and that is being...getting into the flow of our highest state of mind, beginning our day, not with lists, but with listening. In the blog The Blissful Mind, Catherine Beard ends her article on HOW TO ORGANIZE & DECLUTTER YOUR TO-DO LIST with this recap:
When it comes to your never-ending to-do list, stick with the three principles:
Get it out of your head
Let go of “should-s”
Ph.D. Christi Hegstad, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, agrees in her article, “The Productive Power of Your Daily Top 3”: prioritize
Getting out of your head is probably the best priority to get things done, manifest your best experiences, and get in the flow of successful living. When we prioritize focusing on the now, distractions are minimized and flow is optimized. In the Mahabharata, there is a story about Master Dronacharya teaching archery to his many students.
Dronacharya hung a wooded crow, from a tree branch and then summoned his students. Telling the students they were to hit the arrow in the crow's eye, he lined them up and told them they must answer a question before firing.
First, Duryodhana took up his stance. “What can you see?” asked Dronacharya. The student says "I see the bird, the garden, the tree, the flowers, everything!" The teacher told him to put his bow down and step aside.
The next student, Yudhishtra, stepped up, but his answers were similar, "I see the air and leaves blowing in the wind." Dronacharya told the student that he too must put his bow down and go back to his place.
On and on the master teacher asked the same question to the other students, most giving the same or similar answer. Some added that they could see the teacher, their cousins, and people standing around. None were allowed to continue, they were all sent back to their place without being allowed to shoot. Even Dronacharya’s son, could not understand what his father wanted. Finally, Arjuna was the only one left.
Dronacharya asked Arjuna to come up and take his stance. When Arjuna picked up his bow, set the arrow, and drew the string, his teacher asked, “What do you see?”
Arjuna replied, “The eye of the bird.”
“Can you see the tree?” asked Dronacharya.
“No, only the eye of the bird,” was the answer. Dronacharya then went through a list: tree, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, his brothers, cousins, even the teacher himself.
To everything Arjuna’s answer was the same: “No, I can only see the eye of the bird.” With a smile, Guru Dronacharya gave him the order, "Release your bow." Arjuna released the arrow and it sped straight to the target and the bird came tumbling down. Dronacharya embraced the boy and then told the others, “When you want to achieve something, you must focus on it. Closeout all other distractions and concentrate only on your target.”
What is your target?
Is it the things on the list or the list itself?
Or is it what the list represents?
In order to declutter a life of doing, we must focus on being who we are, what is our purpose, and what is our intention. Consider DCCAR.
- Decide what your priorities are. The priorities of your heart and soul, not your mind's goals or lists
- Calm your mind down. Teach it to follow instead of lead and put the Divine Matrix in play.
- Connect with, listen to, and trust your Higher Self .
- Act on the Guidance from your Higher Self.
- Relax and allow what you desire to come to you, to reveal itself to you.
When we begin our day focused on intention and purpose rather than tasks and lists, we get ourselves in the flow of being rather than doing.
To be is to do. ~Socrates
Being is what we want our focus to lie so that the doing –the bird in the tree- is easily accomplished because it is what is in our sights. In the 47th chapter of the Tao te Ching, it teaches:
Without going out the door, know the world
Without peering out the window, see the Way of Heaven
The farther one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore the sage
Knows without traveling,
Sees without looking,
And achieves without acting, doing, or striving.
You don't have to go to the holy land to become enlightened or use a to-do list to become successful
You don't have to look outside of yourself for accomplishments and wisdom - it is all within
Before you go anywhere or look at anything, complete the connection to your True Self in your heart, gut, and brain, without acting...just being. With that as your focus, all else will fall into place.
Since I am free to choose and create every experience of my life, I now awaken the power to stand on my own, no matter what. I bravely step into any wilderness knowing I am supported by the Universe, directed by Divine Wisdom and enveloped in the hands of grace. My heart is profoundly marked by the wild and I love that I am bold, brave, and ready to succeed. I think only of all the great things that will happen on this road.
As I lay out my blueprint, I vibrate energetically that things are going perfectly where they need to go for me to be abundantly prosperous. I have changed my standard to excellence. Excellence is my watchword in the kindness and respect around me, and the creativity and health in me. The power of my word is clear which makes only good manifest. It is done, right here....right now!