The running joke when I was a kid was that I’d give up booze, sex, drugs, and rock and roll for Lent. I wasn’t Catholic, but I went to school with plenty of kids who were. I was too young to truly appreciate rock and roll, have sex, drink, or do drugs. We’ll start with my junior high obsession with The Beatles as the point where that list began to shrink over the next few decades.
At age 45, thanks to to a huge music collection, a highly developed beer palate, two marriages, my doctor, and yes, one evening where someone offered me a toke and I said “What the hell. Why not?”, I need a new list.
(Note: I didn’t really pick up a drug habit, but I really want to get rid of the brown bottles on my shelf. Metformin, lisinopril, and cholesterol meds are really boring drugs.)
Also, while I eventually became Catholic, I’m feeling much better now. Since then, though, I’ve treated Lent with its original intention. You spend 40 days fasting from something that’s holding you back. I don’t do it every year, but sometimes, you have to take stock and say, “What’s really dragging me down?”
Well, this year, I found an odd one, something I thought was supposed to help me.
I’m getting rid of the To Do List.
For the past four years or so, I’ve kept a text file on my thumb drive that tracks everything I want to do on a given day. Well, not everything. I keep a notepad at my desk at work. But I usually plan things out two, three, four weeks in advance, supposedly so I don’t forget to go to night school, take a test, etc. My writing was on that list. My household chores (save the obvious, like dumping the trash or throwing on a load of laundry) were on it.
This was a natural solution for an attention-challenged person such as myself. When I started at BigHugeCo, I practically lived out of my Franklin Planner until my job duties became more reactive. You can’t plan for someone’s hard drive blowing up or their monitor suddenly pouring smoke out the back. So I ditched the planner. For a while, that worked, then I went back to college.
I forgot a homework and a couple of tests. I didn’t want to lug a planner around again, despite BigHugeCo generously refillng them for us every year. So I just wrote a text file listing everything I wanted to get done today, tomorrow, and so on. For a while, it worked. But then…
I got obsessive about it. Some mornings, I’d spend twenty minutes arranging and rearranging my schedule. I’d come home, think, “Tonight would be a good night to walk. But I can’t walk because I scheduled a workout downstairs with the bands, and then I’m going to play with PHP.”
Or, Nita would want to go out and see a band or just hang out at one of our favorite watering holes. I’d go, but I’d be upset with myself for getting off schedule.
Or I’d leave something off and forget about it.
Finally, I said, “To hell with it.” I ditched the thing. If there’s an appointment to keep, I have a calendar in Google Apps. I keep a notepad at work listing what I want to do the next day, and I consider it a polite suggestion as part of my job is still reactive.
It’s only been one week, but it’s quite liberating. It’s also a little unsettling. I keep wanting to fiddle with the list, and the list is no longer there. On the other hand, I find I’m perfectly capable of tracking all those tasks I wanted to do without a file dictating when I do them. I can respond to life a lot better if I don’t have a list getting in the way.
Nita put it best. She said, “I hate to do lists. I don’t like some piece of paper telling me what to do.”