Ahh. The to-do list. So satisfying. So mood-boosting. So efficient.
But what about the NOT-to-do list?
I came across the idea of making a “Things I don’t do” list a few months ago and I thought it was brilliant. Aren’t the happiest most effective most productive people the ones who are so tuned into their mission, their interests, so aware of what drives them and so aware of what does not? Nobody can do everything or be everything.
It is in naming those thing that are not in line with my talents, my interests, and accepting that they are not a priority for me, that I free up space and time for those things that ARE in line with my passions. Thus leading me to a more fulfilling life. A life more in tune with my purpose. One truer to my values.
Here is an example. As much as I love a beautiful home, a perfectly designed and executed gallery wall, styled bookcases, modern themed kids’ rooms…I will never be an interior decorator for my home. Walls are more likely to remain empty than be covered with frames and mirrors. Decorating my home is not a passion. So I don’t spend a lot of time on it.
I also will not be the fit mom. I do feel challenged, in a positive way, to carve more time out of my days for exercise, because I know the energy it gifts me and the clear-headedness, and the confidence boost. But my pursuit will not be a flat stomach and toned abs. This would just require more time and dedication than I am willing to give. Time I would like to spend elsewhere. In another life I would love to be an athlete. A swimmer, perhaps, or a triathlonist. I admire the will-power of athletes, their ambition, their seemingly beyond-human capabilities. But that is another life. Not mine.
I am not the Martha Stewart mom. I will not be found baking pies on holidays or making a lasagne from scratch for a casual weeknight dinner or creating a gorgeous pantry with each ingredient and spice in chalkboard-labelled containers or crafting elegant Christmas decorations. I love no-fuss, quick healthy dinners. I like labels but my mine are more likely to be created out of masking tape and Sharpie.
I am not the travel mom. We will not be planning wild vacations with our kids anytime soon, to explore another culture or even just to have fun at Disney. We are more likely to be found at my grandmother’s house on the South Shore, a mere 40 minute drive, playing on the beach, renting a cottage for a few nights, or just staying at home. Traveling is something I would like to do more of, but I want to be certain of the place I want to see and clear about the purpose (Family trip? Solo travel? Couple getaway?) before making adventurous plans. This is not the season I am in.
Can you taste the freedom? Of letting go of expectations only you have put on yourself. Of being OK with being less in some areas so that you can be more in others?
I am not saying any of these habits or interests are bad. Everyone’s NOT-to-do list will look different. I have great respect for a close friend who turned down the invitation to the book club I was starting. She knew what she didn’t want to spend time on.
I want to be done with the pressure of trying to be everything, do everything. Of being mad at myself for all of the things I am not doing well, and instead accept what I am not and embrace what I am. In realizing those things I don’t do, my life becomes more open to the things I want to do.
The reading – oh the books I want to devour! I can’t shovel them into my mouth fast enough. The time with my kids, just playing. Sitting down to watch a new Netflix show with my husband. And the writing that feeds me, nourishes me, helps me to think, process. Helps me to see what I am, opens my eyes to the ways I am hindering myself. Who said I needed to spend my first hour of the morning showering and flat-ironing my hair and applying make-up? This window of time in the morning was all of a sudden an opportunity to write, while my husband is home and graciously watching the kids. Paradigm shift.
I am such a creature of habit. I like control and predictability. But what if the way I do things is not the only way? Not even the best way. There is a sense of excitement in thinking that there is a more fulfilling way to do things. That there might just be possibilities where I only see road blocks.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs