I was speaking with a client the other day, who complained of feeling constantly under pressure. She’s an educational consultant who travels for work, and is always trying to find a balance between her home and work life.
I asked her about this sense of pressure. She said that she works off a to-do list, and it’s always in the back of her mind. She even schedules time with her husband and children this way. She feels pressured to get through the list on a daily basis.
How do to-do lists become problematic? Aren’t they supposed to help us be more efficient and achieve our goals? Yes, they are, and they often do. It’s a question of whether you run the list or the list runs you.
When you’re living in the present, you get good ideas about life, including what to put on your list. Once you’ve written these things down, however, they’re yesterday’s good ideas. If you let them go and return to the present, you’ll know when to refer to your list without a sense of pressure. You’ll also know when not to – when to go for a walk, play with the dog, or be with your family and friends for example – times to enjoy living, and to let your mind refresh itself. When you come back to your list, you’ll have a fresh perspective, responsive to what’s occurring in the moment. You may find that your list has changed, that you no longer need to do certain things or can do them in a different way, or that it’s time to add some new things to it. If you begin to feel a sense of pressure, you know that your mind has fastened on the list, and you’ve forgotten to let it relax and return to the here and now.
Our minds have the wisdom to create lists and let them go, allowing the eternal present to be our guide. That’s when we know we’re really living.