I love planning and I love lists. I am relishing the thought of planning my wedding following my recent engagement. Lists have been my certainty anchors for many years: when I feel overwhelmed by how many things I think I need to do, a well-structured, categorized list has always made me feel better.
The thing is, I don’t recall ever crossing everything off my to-do list. No matter how organised I am, defining my business’ annual goals, converting those into quarterly priorities which then drive my weekly to-do lists, my natural tendency is to aim to get more done than is physically, mentally and emotionally possible. Completing one activity tends to result in adding another step onto the list. That’s just human nature.
The answer is to slow down. To actually do less and to ensure that what I choose to do has purpose. My mindfulness practice has shown me new ways of working with my to-do list:
- I accept that I will never get everything done. This means I go easier on myself and don’t feel guilty if I haven’t done everything that I wanted to do. This is a key component of any mindfulness practice. Another side-effect is that I also feel more compassionate towards others. It’s win-win.
- Mindfulness teaches us to listen more closely to our bodies’ signals and clues. When I’m doing too much or expecting too much of myself I notice a fluttering in my sternum or mild anxiety and I furrow my forehead. I feel as if I am so busy that I shouldn’t meditate or workout or do anything self-nourishing since there are far more important things I need to be doing. (Hint: thoughts are not facts.) When these signs crop up, I know that the best thing for me is to pause, watch my breath for at least twice as long as I feel I have time for and then ask myself “What is best for me in this moment? What is my next priority?”
- If I’ve carried something over from week to week to week, it’s a sign that either I don’t need to do it or I don’t have the right skills to complete it and I’m better off finding someone else who is.
As I open a new template to start planning my wedding, I will continue to revisit the words I have written on my office whiteboard: “Do Less. Do with Purpose.”