Finding happiness in productivity
With the right approach, tackling that to-do list can actually bring joy.
If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is a beast. My life is a combination of tackling my own life’s to-do’s and those of my clients. Approaching that list is daunting, to say the least. So, instead of anxiety, how can I make this tedious, monstrous list bring me joy?
On my most recent solotrip, I went to Leavenworth, a cute Germanic town in the Cascades. I’m not supposed to “burden” myself with work on these trips but on my second day I was so relaxed that I knew I was in the right frame of mind to tackle a couple of items on my to-do list. I wasn’t stressed because I had just devoted so much time to relaxing and I had set clear limits for myself. Once my tasks were complete, I felt truly content knowing I had been productive but it didn’t contradict my intention to relax. When work is sandwiched with enjoyable activities, the work can actually be fun.
What I’ve also come to learn is the work that I put in that’s surrounded by pleasure actually comes out stronger and clearer. Loading task on top of to-do restricts my creativity, my patience and my focus. I work more efficiently and with less of a sense of burden when there’s balance and intention poured into what I do.
There are lots of approaches to tackling a to-do list. From complex systems to old-school tactics, it’s up to you to figure out what works best for your working style. This is how I find happiness in my productivity:
No. 1: Have a system
One thing I’ve noticed is it’s extremely gratifying to knock things off a list. I use a cloud based tool called Todoist and it’s what keeps me sane. A cardinal rule for any to-do list is to break big tasks up into tiny, bite sized pieces. My personal list may be 124 tasks long but I know each little item is very doable.
No. 2: Choose wisely
Before getting to work, I review my list of to-do’s and select no more than 3 to approach at that time. It’s easy to go for the simplest tasks, and perhaps those are the right ones to deal with. But when I’m in a good frame of mind, I want to tackle some of the tougher ones so I can relax knowing they’re behind me.
No. 3: Give myself a time limit
It doesn’t take much to have a small to-do list take much longer than necessary. I give myself a realistic window to accomplish what I’ve selected. I turn off my major distractions (facebook, cell phone, TV. . .) and sit with I you need.
No. 4: Stop while I’m ahead
As I knock one item off at a time until my list is complete, I notice how I feel. Even if I feel I have the energy to take on more, I resist. I congratulate myself for doing what I set out to do and I let that be enough.
No. 5: Break it up
There will always be more work to do but sitting down to accomplish it all at once can have the opposite effect of what I really need. I get up, walk around, meditate, call a friend, eat some lunch, something to hit the reset button for my mind and body.
We live in a culture that promotes overworking but this does not feed your soul or spirit. Bask in your accomplishments and give yourself a break. Finding ways to turn a stressful list into a happiness producer is well worth it. I promise, that to-do list will still be waiting for you so you’d better find a way to learn to love it.