“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” ~Unknown
I have always loved to-do lists. It gives me joy to plan my day in advance. Lists give me an overview, focus, and I simply love crossing things off.
Things changed when I became self-employed. My to-do list behavior turned from a supportive tool into an instrument of self-imposed pressure.
I felt that being self-employed meant that I had to work very hard to make things happen. The lists became longer and longer, at least fifteen big items per day.
As a result, it became nearly impossible to finish all the tasks on my list in one day. And as a result of that, I was not happy with my daily progress.
Even doing half the things on my list was not good enough. All I could think of were the things I had not managed to do.
My focus shifted from the positive to the negative, from where I was to where I desperately wanted to be. I was not in the now. I was always one impossible to-do list away from being happy with where I was.
I felt grumpy, did not want to speak frankly of how things were really going, and was constantly putting myself under pressure. I felt that I had to prove myself. Prove to the world that I could be successful.
So I tried a bunch of different things.
Among them, I tried living without to-do lists altogether and just going with the flow. I know people who are able to do that and I really admire them.
This did not work out for me. Instead, I shifted the to-do lists from paper into my head, which is a much messier place. So rather than just coping with an impossible list, I was also trying to memorize all the items. Not a good idea.
Then I tried working with weekly to-do lists because this would allow me to spread things out and give me more freedom to allocate tasks, according to how my day was going and how I felt.
Doing this eased things up a bit, but the lists just became even longer so I was still feeling that sense of pressure. I hardly granted myself time off, and all my focus was in the future.
I never got out of bed motivated to do the things on my list, because the sheer bulk brought me down. I was actually stressed before the day had even started.
I did not realize that the one who had to believe in myself was me, not everybody else. My to-do list was full of things that I felt I had to have in order to be successful: A running blog, a great website, a list of followers, paying clients.
This was a reflection of my forward focus, the notion that “things will be great in the mysterious land of tomorrow.” It all came from a sense of not being good enough now.
I was dedicating my focus to a place I was not even ready for yet. I was confusing growth and improvement with what it looks like when you are successful, and I was not doing the work that mattered: the internal work.
Once I started doing the internal work I realized that the best way to get forward is to be happy in the now.
So, I developed my own little ritual. I now do this consistently and make it a point not to check my phone or turn on my computer before doing this morning ritual.
It has changed the way I perceive work. I am more excited and in tune with myself, moving at a comfortable pace.
Here it is. Maybe it serves you too:
1. Be grateful.
I start my day by giving thanks to where I am now, for all the wonderful things that have happened that transported me to this beautiful time and place called the present.
2. Take your time.
I make myself a big pot of tea, sit down in my favorite spot, and snuggle up with my dog. I just give myself time to greet the day, to breathe, and to feel.
3. Connect with your vision.
Before, thinking about the future meant thinking about all the things I do not yet have or do. Connecting with my vision is different.
It means envisioning a world much bigger than myself. My vision guides what I do today. If today is a step, my vision is the direction in which I take that step.
4. Choose a theme.
Each day, I choose a theme that feels right. It reflects how I want to feel and what I want to accomplish. It can be anything, long or short, specific or general. “Today is all about…”
5. Find your three priorities.
Research shows that you can only do three to five meaningful things per day. I feel comfortable picking three and leaving enough space for magic to happen.
6. Assign celebrations.
Since I tend to gloss over my accomplishments after five happy minutes and move on to the next thing to do, I now assign a celebration to each of my three priorities. A celebration can be anything you love, big or small. It can be a walk in nature, a drink with a friend, a manicure, or reading a chapter in an inspiring book.
I hope this ritual inspires you. If you try it out and like it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Photo by IchSapphire