Saturday, January 24, 2015

The List

by Andrew Cromwell

All of us work with lists. Some love to write their lists down on paper (or their phone). Others are more free-form in their list making. These people don’t like to write things down, but instead keep their list in their mind somewhere. The physical list makers are always judging the mental list makers and say they are disorganized. The mental list makers are always judging the physical list makers and say they are inflexible and no fun.

Whether your list is physical or metaphysical, you have one. And there are always more things on the list than it is possible to accomplish.

There is a very important question we all need to ask concerning our list. How do we decide to order the list? Some of us just dump everything onto the list, and then allow the tyranny of the urgent to determine what gets done. Changing the oil in the car is added to the list along with taking the spouse out for a date. The order in which those two items are accomplished is purely dependent on whether the engine or the spouse makes more noise.

Perhaps a better strategy is to decide how to classify things on the list. There are things we must do, things we should do and the things we want to do.

The things we must do are the basics. We must buy groceries if we want to eat, we must pay our rent if we want to have a place to live, and we must work if we want to have resources to do these things. We generally get these things done because if we don’t then life takes an ugly turn.

The things we should do are the things that we all know are a good idea. We should brush our teeth, we should change the oil in the car, and we should be nice to the people in our lives. We can skip these things for a while, but if we ignore them for too long then we are going to have to pay down the road.

The things we want to do are, well, the things we like to do. The problem is, sometimes these things are not good for us or they keep us from doing the things we must and should do.

My challenge for you is to really think about how you decide what comes next on your list and how you categorize things. Too many of us have put things like, invest significant time in my family or grow in my relationship with God, on the ‘should do’ list and we simply never get around to them. Instead, we fill our times with the ‘want to’ dos—the Netflix binges, the parties or hobbies we enjoy, or whatever escapism is your cup of tea. 

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