I have a confession to make: I'm a compulsive list-maker. Of course, this isn't always a bad thing; I've learned the hard way that if I don't write something down, I most likely won't do it (or it'll take me weeks, or even months, to get around to). Short, daily to-do lists that split up bigger tasks into smaller incremental actions have been proven time and time again to increase productivity. But I wondered whether list-making was also diminishing my quality of life and my drive to get out of bed and get to work.
As I write this, I'm lounging in bed in yoga pants and the T-shirt I slept in last night. I spent my day curled up in bed with my dog and bad Chinese food, recovering from a long but fulfilling and overwhelmingly blissful week. Typically, I find myself living an extremely organized, disciplined, healthy life for weeks in a row, as dictated by my lists and schedules.
But as I surveyed my life, I realized that in most cases, I spend more time making lists and building queues than I do accomplishing those goals and living out those dreams. My Netflix and Hulu queues are full of movies and TV shows that I've always wanted to watch, yet I spend my time watching shows I've already seen every episode of multiple times. I spend time and energy building wish lists without using or appreciating the things I already have. I bookmark articles to read until the list becomes too overwhelming to even think about. I buy books and magazines with a dangerous frequency, and yet I've probably read 10 percent or less of the books on my shelf. It's almost as if I get the thrill of living through the ease of list-making, and I never have to do the real work.
As a sentimental and simultaneously goal-oriented human being, I thrive on retrospective holidays like birthdays and New Year's. I buy slick new planners, watch inspiring documentaries, and giddily put together a list of goals and changes I would like to make. Then, like clockwork during the weeks and months to follow, I find myself thinking, "If only I were motivated..." After starting this new chapter of health and presence, I've come to realize that the cake is a lie: motivation is a big excuse. At very few points in my life will there come a moment where I'm so incredibly struck by motivation that I immediately drop all of my bad habits, and instantly transform into a perfect mega-babe who accomplishes all of her goals at the snap of her fingers. It takes work. Change means dragging myself to the gym or the library or the studio, when all I want to do is lay in bed. In fact, change even means allowing myself off days to lie in bed and watch bad TV, because change is a lifestyle, and lifestyles have to allow for breathing room, rest, and recovery. It's about the long haul, the day-to-day, not striving for constant perfection. I find that more often than not, waiting for motivation and creating lists are actions I use to delay progress.
In Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, she says:
"Please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren't afraid? And then go do it."
When swapping goals and tips with my good friend last week, she quipped, "Let's do this! We can do this!" I thought about it, stopped her, and added, "No, we are doing this. Every day, we're choosing to do this." Amy Poehler once declared, "I want to be around people that do things. I don't want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things."
So I'm going to do things. I am going to eloquently resign from unnecessary list-making, and instead, I'm going to make a list of steps to achieve my goals and work towards them daily thought and conscious action.
Who's with me?
All images via the author's instagram.