I had a serendipitous exchange of comments with a reader and a wonderful new idea sprung to life. Perhaps it will inspire you as you work on some New Year's resolutions.
It’s a way to take the quotidian to-do list and turn it from a nagging reminder into a B.F. Skinner-like intermittent conditioning machine.
That is to say, to make tackling at least some items on the dreaded list pleasant and fun.
The power, and the tyranny, of the to-do list
I’ve gotten more done in my life with a simple, paper-based daily to-do list than armies accomplish in their campaigns.
I found immense satisfaction, if not in reviewing the items on my list each day, then in striking out completed tasks. A visible, visceral sign that I was being productive!
I suspect, however, that your to-do lists share this feature in common with mine: they contain tasks that require reminding as well as doing. In other words, they tally up more or less odious chores.
After all, we don’t need to put the things that are easy and fun on any list because they need no reminder prodding us.
The to-do makeover
And therein lies the magic: who says we can’t put fun things on our to-do lists? And what would happen were we to do so?
Imagine how it would change your day to be reviewing your to-do list and find yourself coming across items like these:
- Go feel the sun on your face and simply listen to the sounds of nature
- Take the next hour to listen to your favorite playlist or podcast or watch an episode of the show you’re currently bingeing
- Have a piece of chocolate after lunch; heck, have a piece of pie
- Take a half hour and read the latest from your favorite authors' newsletters
- Sleep in tomorrow, and when you do wake up, have your coffee in bed while you read the newspaper
I know chances are good you’re going to do some or all of these things anyway. But the point is to make yourself feel wonderful by coming upon one of these beauties on your otherwise onerous to-do list.
It’s a kind of simple self-care that has a serious objective.
When we remember that we’re living our lives right now, and we only have today, it behooves us to introduce sweetness and light into our days.
Oh sure, keep all the chores and tasks on the list. I’m not suggesting a headlong descent into hedonism.
But as we go about the serious business of being ourselves, why not also make it a pleasure to be ourselves?
Summary — the to-do future
My bet is that by putting a few pleasant activities on our to-do lists, we might just change the nature of our days.
I’m sure as heck going to give it a try. How about you?
What have you got to lose?
I can keep reminding you to read my stories, or you can just subscribe and make it easy on yourself.