Are you a person who makes lists?? So you like listing? (You have to know that the real meaning of the word “listing” in all things nautical is: leaning. Yes. Like “leaning to port” means the ship is leaning towards the left (port) side. So if YOU are “listing…” Well, I just hope you don’t fall. And now I want to move along to what I mean by LISTS! Do you like to make lists? Are they all over your house or apartment or yurt on post-it notes?
Do you have a “MASTER LIST” reminding you of where all the “minor lists” are? (That’s about what it’s like for mee . . . lists upon lists, making it necessary to have a “master list.”) So this morning I thought I’d share a few thoughts about lists (and don’t think for a single minute that there won’t be MORE posts about lists in the days (or weeks or months) to come. I think when most of us think of making lists, we’re usually thinking of “TO DO” lists. And this is a good idea… as long as we don’t use lists to remind ourselves of how much we’re NOT DOING . . . . (Oh! I see I’ve hit a nerve with that, eh?). Don’t use lists to destroy your happiness! Lists of things we want to do can be motivational, and also helpful (if we make it so) by giving us ways to organize our time – to prioritize the things we want to DO – things we want to accomplish. So here are a few ideas for those who are LISTERS. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to confuse QUALITY with QUANTITY. Oh, that’s MEE so much! I even write things down after I’ve done them, just because it feels SO GOOD to CHECK ‘EM OFF! And I can have LOTS of things “checked off,” and yet some of the most important things I want to do are “UN-checked….” Does that right a bell with you too?? I can have a day where I’ve plowed through a whole bunch of “low impact,” EASY things, just to feel happified and satisfied about ALL that I’ve accomplished! Lots and LOTS of almost meaningless “chores” and tasks. But it always seems to shoot a little hole in my balloon when I see that a few of things which didn’t get checked off are the things that would have made a much more satisfying feeling. Hmmmm….
Some of use lists to torture ourselves. Have you ever done that? The lists are LONG (make that L-O-N-G!), and there are so MANY of them!! I make lists even knowing that I’ll never accomplish everything I’ve written down. Never! (I recently wrote myself a note, and it’s posted right here by my computer: I CAN ALREADY TELL THAT MY LIFE IS GOING TO BE TOO SHORT. Yep. I wrote that recently, and I look at it often and think about it. I’m not sure I’m right, but I’m feeling that as time passes I feel a greater need to PRIORITIZE – to do the things I most NEED and WANT to do before I’m “permanently listless” (ie, GONE!). Don’t set yourself up to fail by making lists way too long (this can turn into a nasty habit!), or making way too many lists. This takes up way too much energy and time. (It takes a LOT of energy just to FIND your many “To Do” lists, doesn’t it!). You keep seeing numbers 5 and 17, which might be the most important things you have on your long list… but all the things around are checked first, and you might never even get to 5 and 17…. Maybe we should have a little notebook with a title on it like “THINGS TO DO MAYBE NEVER” (excellent English, eh?). We could peek in that notebook if we’re ever bored, or if we ever want to feel overwhelmed….
So here are some ideas for making successful “TO DO” lists. (And some of you – likely MOST of you – are already outstanding LISTERS!!… you can skip this part if you want… or you can skip it if you can’t standing reading the post while your lists are waiting for you, looking at you, making you sweat and scream)…. IDEAS for making lists which can HELP you rather than FRUSTRATE you: Keep them SIMPLE. Just put a FEW things on your list, especially if you know today is already packed pretty full with the “must-do” things (which you don’t even write down… like BREATHING??? OK, that wasn’t a good example, but you know what I mean). There may be days when you put only ONE thing on your list! Clean the junk drawer. Finish the talk or lesson for this coming Sunday. Stir the garage (sometimes I use “stir” to mean things like “find out what’s there!!”). Weed the garden. Get the visiting teaching done. You’ll think of what it is (or what they are if you still insist on writing more things down)… the things which, when you’re finished, will make you feel SO GOOD!! You know, don’t you, that in your morning prayers (or evening if that’s when you make your lists) you can ask for Help in doing the most important things on this particular day. (That was a good idea, in case you kind of skimmed over it….)
OK… some other ideas. MORNINGS. Yes, mornings. Most people do NOT consider themselves to be “morning people.” But I’m just making suggestions, OK? Part of the reason I’m doing this is that many people whom I admire have said that the early morning hours are the best time for some of our most important tasks. Yep. I’m not kidding…. And by the way, I have NO IDEA why morning people and night people are named after BIRDS! Who thought that up?? Early birds and Night owls. ?? I’m proof that sometimes night owls turn into to early birds. Studies have shown (picture someone with a white lab coat on when you read those words, OK?… it’ll make this idea lots more powerful) that early birds are generally happier than night owls! (I found this out on the internet, friends, so it’s gotta be true!). Seriously… it seems that people who are early risers tend to be healthier and happier. Maybe that’s why work hours are mostly in the mornings. (I have to say that 11-7 was by FAR the hardest shift I worked as a nurse… but someone reading this might say it’s their favorite). I know that some people DO work best in the mornings, but some are more productive in the afternoon, or evening, or even in the middle of the night. President Boyd K. Packer: “I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Our minds are then fresh and alert. The blackboards of our minds have been erased by a good night’s sleep. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in our way. Our bodies have been rested also. That is the time to think something through carefully and to receive personal revelation. For me, it is the best time to prepare lessons for a class I am to teach.” (Teach Ye Diligently, p.243 – 244) And from the Doctrine and Covenants 88:124 – [I was going to shorten it, but the whole thing is pretty good!] “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” You’ll “get it” that I mostly wanted to emphasize the part about arising early, right? Maybe you could pick one morning each week to get up earlier than usual?? (Don’t get an ulcer over this… it’s only a suggestion).
Some of you are in a season of life where your children are your “to-do list.” You may be a care giver, and that is your main thing to do each day (oh how I hope you have at least one or two others who take turns giving you a break!). Take “small bites” out of huge tasks. You probably already do that. Even tackling a small part of something BIG can give you energy and optimism about continuing to work towards finishing. You’re going to give a talk or lesson or other presentation? Make an outline – even just doing that will give you a boost and will move you towards a successful completion. Be “proactive” rather than “reactive.” Take charge of your day as much as you can! Don’t let your email or texts or internet surfing or watching more than you need to of the morning news take away some of your most productive time. If there were a way to measure your use of time, do you think you get in a whole hour of what you’d call “productive time” in a day? With some planning, could you increase that to two hours? Even more? And YES… some days there will be urgent things come up. Most of us have emergencies in our lives…. Sometimes it can be helpful if you DO take 5 minutes or so to write down every single thing you can think of that you need to do NOW (ok… “now” can be “within 24 hours” or “within the month” … but just write down as many things as you can think of without taking the whole day to do it). Maybe do this late in the day, and then take a good look at it the next morning (yes, when our mind is fresh) and select a few of the most critical things – put a star by them, or highlight them, or put them on a separate small list … Another thing you could do is cross out things that don’t matter (if there are any). Tighten it up. Shorten the list. Maybe you can get someone else to do some of the things on the list, eh? Good luck with that!! There are times when you may need to do a small task because it’s annoying you – you can’t seem to quit thinking about what you want to do in that one closet… (ha ha—I know that quite a few things just popped in your mind… careful now!). Maybe it’s that one window which you need to wash, or the very important phone call or visit… it’s something that your mind keeps wandering back to, making it hard to focus on your high prority stuff. Sometimes you have to kill a fly before you start making salad for dinner (can you tell I just made that up? Awesome!).
OK… I’m going to bring this to a close (in 3,000 words or more). IF you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and disorganized in your life, if you’re constantly saying or feeling that “I’m way too busy!” or if you constantly feel like time is flying on wings of lightning (and no, you cannot call it back)… take a breath, pause, and put 3 or 4 things on a list which will ease your mind, and get them done. I’ve found that when I do something I’ve been “meaning to do!!!” it frees my mind and even sometimes my time, allowing me to do more than I thought I could. Don’t let the lists discourage you or stress you out. Burn them (or shred them if you’ve been forbidden to play with matches) if they’re interfering with your happiness and peace of mind, OK? If your lists are growing like weeds or zucchini, or if you just need to take a day or week or whatever OFF from making and looking at and prioritizing lists… STOP for a while!
And that leads me right into a really good tip (at least I think so): Some days, or for some periods of time on some days, it’s NICE and HEALTHY to be LISTLESS! Got it? LISTLESS! Which means, of course, that we take a break once in a while… no list!
Here is something from the life of Joseph Smith which helps to illustrates what I mean: That Joseph Smith liked to pull sticks, wrestle, play baseball, swim, and hunt is generally well known. William Allred, who played ball with Joseph many times, recalled an instance when someone criticized the Prophet for indulging in play. To answer the criticism Joseph told a parable about a prophet and a hunter—clearly explaining his own philosophy about the relationship of play to work. As the story goes, a certain prophet sat under a tree “amusing himself in some way.” Along came a hunter and reproved him. The prophet asked the hunter if he always kept his hunting bow strung up. “Oh no,” said he. “Why not?” “Because it would lose its elasticity.” “It is just so with my mind,” stated the prophet; “I do not want it strung up all the time.” (Biography and Journal of William Moore Allred, photocopy of holograph, Church Hist. Dept. Archives, p. 10) SO KEEP IT HEALTHY! TAKE A BREAK ONCE IN A WHILE AND JUST BE “LIST-LESS!”
And now for a word from our sponsor: Don’t hold your breath, but word has it that MEE is soon going to come up with a BLOG about BUCKET LISTS!! Oh joy! Oh rapture! (We’ll have to wait to see if it really happens; meanwhile, just stick to the “TO-DO” lists and have a wonderful day!!)