There’s More to Life Than Your To-Do List

So how do you escape its pull?

My husband and I both work and commute a lot. We’re both in the startup scene in the adrenaline-filled city of New York, in jobs that we love and that push us quite a bit.

We’re also about to start a family.

At the end of the day, we get home, and we have just a short time to connect. There’s always a plethora of things to be done: laundry, dishes, eating dinner, unpacking our gym clothes, setting up for the next day, responding to any last work inquiries if they come in, picking up around the house, and tackling whatever’s next on the endlessly massive “getting ready for baby” list we’ve got in a shared Evernote doc.

Sometimes, in a rare peaceful moment, we sit together — him in his favorite red chair under the window, me propped up amidst a pile of pillows on our not-quite-white couch, sleek against the bookshelves. (The couch is sleek; I am not. I am quite round with pregnancy). He asks, like he always does, how my day went.

I launch into a litany of reports, basic repetitions of what got done, what marketing messages were sent, and sometimes I get lost rambling about it all. Despite enjoying it during the day, telling stories about only work feels as though I’m repeating the work I did by recalling it to him. The clock scrolls down. We’re some how both more tired after this outlet than energized. The clock strikes bedtime.

One evening, bored of the to-do list chatter, I stood up and walked to the kitchen sink. (This was not a long walk, given that we live in a New York City apartment.) I let my mind relax for a minute with my hands under the hot soapy water of dishes being done.

“I don’t want to just tell you about my day, like a rote list—I want to connect. How do we move from all this doing and reporting to a state of being and connecting?”, I asked.

My husband’s eyes lit up.

“Yes,” he said, relieved.

“I want that, too.”

States of being: states of connecting.

We talked about the different ways we chat with each other, sketching a quick shorthand to explain each type of communication. When we’re together, we can be:

  • Doing — items on our to-do list. These are not necessarily exciting, but often need to get done.
  • Reporting—sharing what happened and “where the berries are” from our daily list.
  • Connecting—something we both long for each day: a spark of connection around an idea, a thought, an insight, a creative impulse. This can be laying down on the carpet together to giggle and rub our feet against the soft shaggy fibers, holding hands for a minute, or just sitting next to each other, staring out the windows, being in the same space.
  • Being—when existing is enough, when stillness feels palpable and joyful.

The trap of doing and reporting can keep me from connecting and being. Sometimes I need to turn off my talker (I’m a good talker) and let the day sink into me in a new way. We’ve found that having this short-hand helps us diagnose where we are, and it helps me move out of super-awesome-get-things-done-mode into a more receptive, relaxed, and restorative space. One where I can enjoy connecting with myself and with my partner, and being exactly where I am, in the moment.

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Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer, entrepreneur, and mama-to-be. She writes a newsletter at and teaches on writing, storytelling, gratitude, yoga, and more. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, or follow her attempt at comedy about pregnancy with the hashtag #PregRealities