There’s one sure-fire way to take yourself out of this beautiful present moment:
Make a List.
With the most innocent of intentions, many of us start the day by sitting down with a fresh piece of paper, jotting down the day of the week at the top, underlining it, then listing the appointments we have scheduled for the day. These are important: they are commitments that affect other people, whether it means being on time for a doctor’s appointment, a scheduled car repair, or a Zoom meeting right here at the home office desk.
Appointments. Good things to remember.
A word I just invented, ‘semi-appointments’ are deadline-free commitments that are nevertheless tied to real appointments. Like getting a bloodwork test done before the doctor’s appointment. Like stopping at the gas station on the way to the repair shop, or else the car will run out of gas on the way there. Like putting the finishing touches on a presentation, well in advance of the scheduled Zoom conference meeting.
But what about all that other ‘to-do’ stuff?
There’s a place for that too, but not on your daily list!
Instead, follow the lead of the Day-Timer™ Company, and create a Grass-Catcher List. This sheet of paper (does anyone still use paper?) will be fertile feeding ground when you are between appointments and still full of energy for a productive day.
It is not a place for every whimsically nice idea that crosses your mind: this is not brainstorming. Your Grass-Catcher List is only used to jot down things you need to remember. Its real power is that it gives you a way to stop interrupting yourself. Here’s how.
The In’s and Out’s of my Grass-Catcher List
My Grass-Catcher List is divided in half vertically. The columns are called: In and Out, (shorthand for “At Home” and “Errands”).
The ‘In’ Side
‘Phone Calls’- Under this subheading I note the calls I want to make in the next week or so, no order of importance, just as I think of them.
‘Computer’- When I’m working on a big writing project, I don’t want to interrupt myself evey time I think of an email I need to send or a product I want to research online. Instead, I just jot it down under ‘Computer’ on my G-C List.
‘Listen’- This is my list of the monthly membership Patreon sites and podcasts I support financially. That reminds me to listen to them when I want a break.
What I don’t write down is just as important as what I do write down.
I never list ‘wash dishes’, ‘vacuuming’, ‘tidy up’. I do those things when the spirit moves me, not because some taunting bit of ink is ‘shoulding’ all over me.
At the opposite end of the joy spectrum, I never, ever add my favorite hobbies to a task list. This is for two reasons: one, there’s no risk of my forgetting them and two, I don’t want joy tainted with duty.
The ‘Out’ Side
I no longer drive, so my Out list has two sub-categories:
Walk- This could include the ATM machine, my local pharmacy, and a specialty item at the local co-op a block from where I live.
Bus/Car- I’m back taking public transportation cautiously, and luckily I also have friends who will drive me to stores beyond easy walking distance. Here I write down extraneous errands that are not urgent, but that I want to remember the next time I am out.
Groceries- Ah yes, an on-going list for me. Again, I only write down the things I want to be sure to remember, because most of my shopping is ‘produce-browsing.’
Not included- I never write down things that “might be fun to do while I’m out,” because that bright idea becomes clutter, blocking the way for bright ideas to come. If I have spare time while I’m actually out and about (for example, while I’m waiting for my bus), I can trust my gut instinct to come up with something exhilerating to do in that moment. No need for a list.
And there is my point.
Even in pandemic days, it can feel like there’s not time enough to do what needs to be done. Getting to the root of that sense of being ‘behind schedule’ is important work, maybe the most valuable investigative work you will ever do. An unfinished to-do list can become a needless weight on your soul. I want to help you attain a greater sense of satisfaction and spontaneity out of every day, so here’s your challenge:
1- For one whole week, refrain from creating your usual drill-sergeant to-do lists.
2- Instead, on a small piece of paper, jot down only your Appointments and Semi-Appointments for the day.
3- Start a Grass-Catcher List, including only things you really want to remember to do at some point in the next couple weeks, no longer.
4- Use your Grass-Catcher List as a Shopping List whenever you find yourself at an unexpected ‘meadow’ in your day. When you look at the Grass-Catcher List, be sure to pause and notice if you are asking what you should do next, vs. what you want to do next. If nothing on the G-C List grabs your interest, you are then free to look around and consult your marvelous Intuition as well.
Finally, at the end of each day, see if you have a strangely elevated sense of pleasure and accomplishment. You met all you commitments and did quite a bit more. You spent most of your day in the Present Moment, trusting your instincts over and over again. You came to see you never needed to hold your own feet to the fire at all.
A List can be a tool or a weapon. Choose wisely.
P.S.: Today happens to be this blog’s 4th birthday. My how it has grown, as has my confort level in creating it. And for that, you certainly are partially responsible.