The Daily Juggle
The Daily Juggle
Why it’s liberating to take a break from your to-do list
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The day before a recent business trip, I made a list of all the things I was going to get done during the flight time. I worked out that I would be able to get through half of them on the three-hour flight to my destination and then the other half on the three-hour flight back. Perfect.
I travel from Sydney to Melbourne at least once a fortnight and I have managed to make my flights really productive. When you are forced into a situation where there is nothing you can do but sit, think and write, without the distraction of the internet or telephone, it becomes far easier to focus on a single task.
I also use my business travel as a way to get the things done that I wouldn't normally have time for. Three hours seemed like a gift. As we started taxiing for take-off I made the mistake of flicking through the entertainment guide. There was a certain movie that I have been wanting to see but haven't found the time. So I added it to my list and decided to start there. That accounted for half of the flight time. Then there was the lunch service, which took another half hour. I decided to have lunch on my flight because I wouldn't have time to stop for lunch once I landed. There was only an hour left of flight time but I still had six items on my to-do list. At that point in the flight, according to my schedule, I should have done two of the items.
I decided that I would give myself a break from my to-do list and try to fit those items into my evening in the hotel that night. With an hour to go I was feeling tired and sleep is another one of those items that probably should be high on my to-do list but just never gets prioritised. I indulged in an hour's nap.
When we landed I went straight to the hotel. There was an hour and a half before I needed to leave for my first meeting. I thought about that list. I would usually have squeezed at least one of the items into that timeframe but instead I decided to investigate the surrounds, something that I rarely allow myself the time to do.
It was such a great feeling to walk away from an incomplete to-do list. Of course, none of the items were urgent. If they were it may not have felt so liberating. As I walked around the streets, stopping off for a wonderful coffee, I made a decision not to look at my to-do list again until I was back on that plane home.
I can't explain the out-of-character decision. Maybe it had something to do with a family member's recent ill-health or a friend's sudden job loss that week or just coming to my senses finally. Whatever the reason I wasn't going near my to-do list for 48 hours and I have to admit I was feeling great.
I felt lighter without that list. Instead of checking it between meetings to see if I could cross something off, I took in my location and allowed myself the time to sit and relax. I walked, I talked and I read for enjoyment.
But, the first thing I did when I boarded the plane home was stare at that list. It was beckoning me. None of the items were urgent but a few required some thinking time. I decided to use the plane trip home to think about my list. My mind wandered ahead to my next week at work and the craziness of that schedule. I made the decision to try to tackle those items then. If my week was going to be hectic anyway then why not throw this list on top? I have always worked best under pressure, when I have limited time to get things done.
So on the flight home I watched the episodes of Modern Family and The Office that I hadn't seen. I had dinner without my laptop and managed to get in another nap. I arrived feeling liberated, relaxed and fully aware that the week ahead could be hell. At the time it felt like I made the right decision. Let's see how the week pans out.
Do you let to-do lists rule your life? How easy has it been for you to take time-out from your list?