Make your to do list help, not hinder, you. Let you to do list become a prayer.
First, listen in stillness. Then write somewhere on your list what you hear. Then categorize your tasks, focusing on what is essential. Let go of those things that can wait (for now or forever).
What this looks like for me:
I've hoped that Advent will be a time of winding down, a space for listening, rest and celebration. Yesterday, I found myself overwhelmed. Each time I looked at my list of tasks, anxiety crept to the surface. Each task was just a pebble, but I had a mountain before me.
So I turned to a fresh page: December.
I started with a simple doodle—tiny circles and bulbs, then lines to connect them into strings. I let my mind calm and wander as I doodled. I wrote “December” slowly and carefully across the top of the page. I wrote “What is essential?” underneath, a question a friend posed to me recently on a day I felt stressed.
As my hands were busy, my mind stilled. I listened. The carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” came to me. It's not a carol I sing often, but as I thought about the words they felt fitting: “God rest ye… [be] merry… Let nothing you dismay… Jesus Christ our savior was born upon this day!” These are words I need right now. I need good tidings of comfort and joy. So, I wrote those words at the top and bottom of the page, framing my list. When I turn to my list of tasks, they will remind me of what is important: in this season, I want to slow down, be present, be merry, and rest in joy.
Next, I categorized. I’ve been playing with how to categorize tasks lately, and this month, I have four columns: 1) projects (major things that require ongoing work), 2) tasks (for those little things I just need to cross off), 3) ideas and questions (to keep track of and look at later), and 4) things to do later or never (tasks I’m not quite ready to forget I intend to do, but that don’t really need to be done right now.) These categories help, because my work time is unpredictable. Sometimes I catch 5 minutes while my kids are playing—good time for a quick task, but not for a project. Other times I have a few hours that I can use to dig into something bigger. I also have discovered that I like monthly lists for work and separate weekly or daily lists for home-related things. For a while, I made my lists on a whiteboard, because I loved that when everything was finished it was clean instead of messy.
It takes time to figure out how your lists can work for you, and plenty of trial and error. Seasons change, and your needs change with them. But lists can be more than lists; they can be intentional practices that center you and remind you of what you need to remember.
To download a free template for Advent listening, see last week's post. :-)