Since this site is largely about simple living, it seems a lot of the readers and listeners are fairly goal-oriented. The idea of ‘simple living’ is more of a journey than a destination, so this pretty much makes sense.
This journey type of mindset implies goal setting, which I’m all about, of course—but the problem with a continual focus on goals is that we unintentionally orient our day to day living with tasks. We become task-oriented people instead of relationship-oriented, and we end up equating a “good day” with whether we get a lot done.
I like to-do lists, and I like checking things off (and of course I’ve added something after I’ve done it just so I can check it off). But the issue arises when we focus all our energy, all our efforts towards these “to-do” tasks, because you know as well as me that we rarely cross off an entire day’s list.
And does an unfinished to-do list make a bad day? Of course not. In fact, you could adjust your sails and scribble out a list of things you don’t plan on doing—and cross those things off when you succeed in not doing them.
A to-don’t list.
Maybe your not doing them could equal a productive, thoughtful day.
I’ve decided that it’s a good idea to do this more often in my life—to notice what I’m intentionally not doing just as much as what I’m getting done. I’m going to make a to-don’t list more often.
Here’s part of my current to-don’t list:
• Don’t tackle larger house projects right now
• Don’t think about spring gardening
• Don’t set aside money for next Christmas
• Don’t be on a Whole 30
• Don’t stay up too late
• Don’t wake up too early
• Don’t sign up for a local farm co-op
• Don’t get involved in a homeschool co-op
• Don’t sign up the kids for spring sports
• Don’t empty my email inbox
• Don’t say yes to the thousand (well-meaning) requests sitting in my inbox
• Don’t try to understand the latest social media trend
• Don’t plan one thing for Valentine’s Day
• Don’t work all hours of the day
• Don’t do everything I could possibly do to promote my books
• Don’t keep Facebook or Twitter open when I write
• Don’t feel guilty about our daughter not having a birthday party this year
• Don’t volunteer at church
• Don’t get involved in a book club
And here’s the funny thing with writing this—my knee-jerk reaction is to justify a few of these to you. I want to explain to you why we’re not doing a farm co-op right now, or that we DO do some of these things sometimes. I want to make sure you know I do stuff. Which is completely ridiculous.
We get so wrapped up about Getting Stuff Done, or about defining our value in our accomplishments, our busyness. But is that really what life’s all about? Crossing off a to-do list isn’t a bad thing, but this isn’t the core of our life’s meaning, what really makes up the sum purpose of our days.
So notice what you don’t want to accomplish, just as much as you do. And if it’s hard for you to even think of what you don’t want to do, ask yourself if you’re trying to do too much—or, at least feel like you’re supposed to do more than what you are.
Because it’s perfectly okay—no, it’s AWESOMELY okay—that you don’t do stuff. Really.
Slow down and smell the roses, and if you’re too busy to get a whiff, it’s time to make a to-don’t list.