Purposefully reimagining the ‘to do’ list

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ― Annie Dillard

At the start of 2016, I reflected on many of my everyday habits.

They say we make our habits and then our habits make us; and I wondered, what habits do I have that are possibly limiting my potential?

A habit that came up was my daily ritual of working through my personal and professional ‘to do’ list. I am one of those people who has to do lists for my to do lists — and every day, almost on autopilot, I would systematically ‘do’ as many items as possible.

After some reflection, something struck me; how is this everyday habit shaping me? Am I becoming my ‘to do’ list? Is this list making me some kind of human doing? Why am I not balancing this list with ideas of who I want to be, and how I want to come together with others?

After some reflection, I decided to shake things up. I certainly didn’t want my life to be overly defined by my ‘to do’ lists. Instead, I’d prefer to purposefully prime each day in a balanced way.

Being — Relating — Doing

At the time I was reading 4D Leadership by Alan Watkins, and in it he suggests if we want to live a balanced life, there were 3 questions we best consider together. They are:

  • Who are we being? — Thinking about our inner worlds of thoughts and feelings? Who is the human being that shows up to do the doing?
  • How and why are we relating? — Thinking about the interpersonal world of relationships. How can I best come together with others in ways that are both meaningful and mutually-beneficial?
  • What are we doing? — Thinking about how we can come together and do the things we need to do? How can we co-create something we couldn’t do on our own?

I loved it, and for me, that was the insight I needed to make a change in my life. I divided my ‘to do’ list into 3 sections — and I was away.

One year on

I’ve been using this structure for over a year now and it’s awesome. I’ve found it to be a simple yet powerful intervention for widening my circle of awareness of what’s possible — and for grounding my day in a purposeful way.

In particular, its helped me find greater coherence in my life — perhaps because it helps me gain greater awareness of the things that really matter.

Reimagining my to do list is something I have found to be valuable and I thought was worth sharing. If you have any reflections you’d like to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts.