Re-examining my relationship with To-do lists and Life…

[Image: Original Groundlake logo sketched out in biro, re-discovered recently while clearing out old notebooks.]

The bank holiday weekend started out well. We packed the car, left in a semi-timely manner, took the scenic route, and ate our favourite local pizza (one napoli, one pepperoni and pineapple) in the evening. I managed to enter one of my favourite – and dangerous – secondhand bookshops the next day, and spent two days meeting a new family member for the first time. We played table tennis, went to the beach, drank beer and enjoyed a fair bit of Vampire Survivors.

Sunday evening I was a bit weary though, and too tired to be sensible and get an early night. And when Monday came around. It was like my body had given up. And, with it my mind had spiralled down into something of a grump-hole. I crashed pretty hard all day, managing to play the mini-golf I’d hoped to get to all weekend, but having to leave the long drive home to my wife while I mostly stared out the window into the distance.

I’ve been thinking more about life and energy since then. Not that it’s a new thing, I guess I often feel pretty exhausted – there’s a cycle of feeling okay, taking on too much, and then getting overwhelmed and wanting it to all go away. I suspect that’s a decent description of a light form of manic-depression. But that’s me. And I feel like I’m unpicking it a bit more this time round.

I am, however, slightly sick of simply trying to change up my “routine”, or find short-hand ways to be more “effective”, “productive”, “GTD”, etc. I’m generally on board with that and have multiple methods to organise things – they usually work, although at times I think it means my threshold is simply higher, so I get more of a rebound effect when I do get to that limit.

So perhaps I’m missing a whole realm of alternative answers here. Ones that don’t just restructure the pieces on the board, but actually change the rules of the game. For instance, I’ve noticed that a more organised to-do list (even if just 2 or 3 items long) can simply turn into a to-fret list, a machine for making you concerned about whether you’ve ticked your own boxes or not. It can remove a lot of the joy and creativity of doing, and I know myself well enough to know that it’s that joy which keeps me going – without it, the overhead of worry either creates or amplifies the down side of the cycle.

I have a festering belief that (my) focus methods should simply set some basic guidelines, such as time spent, and on a particular area/client/topic/etc, and that I should then encourage myself to enjoy improving that space as much as possible.

Sure, task lists are still a good way of organising and breaking down possible work to avoid confusion, but it’s about shifting the starting point for going into that work. It’s about returning to the reasons for why you started doing something in the first place. It’s all about Intent.

I’m going to give this a mindful go, alongside other small tweaks to try to improve my rest cycles (less coffee, more reading, more water, slowing down generally). I don’t want to set out any specific steps for how I’m going to do it though, other than a few minutes of thought time before I begin things – that would seem to defeat the whole point of it. And I don’t want it to be just a work thing, despite this being my work notes blog. I feel like it’s a me thing, across everything I do.

Let’s go.