Just thinking of my overwhelming list of to dos — the kind that follows me into the shower, spoons with me at night, and takes a bite out of my sandwich before I get a chance — and I thought about this friend of mine. I’ll call her Rochelle. She’d say, “just take one small thing off that list, one that you can do by yourself today (in under 10 minutes, say) and just do it.” Crossing that one little thing off your crushing, intimidating list steals a disproportionately large amount of its weight and bluster, according to her.
She did this for 80 days or something like that (I forget all of the details, but I think she gave herself as many days as she had items on the list) and FORBADE herself to add anything more to the list until everything on it was crossed off. For a while this was very hard for her and she’d sometimes sneak-start a new one, but then destroy it.
This idea completely freaks me out, still. No lists???
“But how’d you get all the other stuff done, the stuff that you HAD to do but that came up in the meantime, on say Day 48?” I remember asking …I still wonder.
She said she made a mental note of those things and did them too. To this day, she refuses to keep a to do list* that’s longer than four or five items and that can’t be done within a week or preferably a day. (WHAT???) What she discovered in the process of her little experiment, she said, was that her elaborate to do lists were a SHAM: not only were they a terrible form of procrastination and a really crappy reminder, right there in black and white, of how lame she was, but also they didn’t really work … for some people anyway, like me, like the old Rochelle. And — this is the best part — by relying more on her memory, she claimed that what she had to do became more integrated with who she was, her true values and priorities, in fact helped her manifest those things in her life. “I remember what I have to do because it makes sense for me to remember.” She’d also realized that so many of the things on her old to do lists were things she thought she SHOULD do versus things she really needed or wanted to do.
Today Rochelle is one of the most productive and successful people I know personally AND she’s living and making a living in line w/ her own ideas of what’s important. She talks a lot less than she used to, isn’t as twitchy either, seems happier, drinks less, but she’s still Rochelle. And this reminds me of one last thing she said about the old lists: she felt that they, along with other old habits, were like so many old friends who’d provided her comfort over the years, never let her down, were always there for her — and that for a long time, she equated getting rid of these habits with a sort of betrayal … not only of these friends but of a self that she’d formed in their trusted company. But they had become less comfortable for her over time (more on this later, maybe) and by saying goodbye to them, she actually felt more like herself, her true self, than she had in years.
So right now I’ve picked my thing, so small but slightly incriminating in my not having done it, and I hereby commit to getting it done today, crossing it off my list. Not sure yet whether I’ll commit to the rest of the plan.
Either way, I’ll report back later on my success.
WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOURS…
*As opposed to a grocery list or an action/implementation plan in list form, in which each item is the next step in a sequence of steps for getting X done