If you are like me, you look at your to-do list and ask, “When will I get it all done?” At what point will we get up one morning and see that there is nothing on the list? More importantly, if that list was blank, would that be a good thing? Would if represent freedom? On the other hand, would it represent a life for which there is no longer a purpose?
To understand the point, let’s substitute the term “restaurant menu” for “to-do list.” When I go into a restaurant, I am presented with a lengthy menu. A large menu selection is a positive trait. Am I going to order everything on the menu? Of course not. Even if I visit that restaurant a dozen times and order something different each time, I will still not have tried every choice on the menu.
Ordering everything is not what a menu is for. It is not something to be “finished.” It presents choices for me, enjoyable choices. The longer the menu, the more things I won’t choose. The longer the menu, the greater the chance that what I do choose will be delicious! I won’t eat everything, but I like the fact that the menu puts it all in front of me.
I walk into a library. There is no way I am going to read everything from the vast array of books that occupy that building. But that’s not what a library is for. It presents me with wonderful choices. The organized way in which books are shelved and the comprehensive card catalog provide me a total picture of my choices.
We can view our to-do list as something that must be finished, or we can view it as something to be enjoyed. I propose that the attitude we take toward the length of our list may well shape the quality of what we put on it, and in turn, the quality of our lives.
If my aim is to finish the list, then my temptation is to add only those items which can be finished quickly. I will limit my goals. I will resist adding items to the list, looking at each additional item as an enemy standing between me and a list that is “done.”
I can take another view of the list. I can view it as a place to trap all of the worthwhile opportunities that I can’t take advantage of at this very moment. It is the menu that lists 50 different varieties of cheesecake. I will eat one today, but I sure would like to keep a list of the other 49 for the next time I am hungry for cheesecake. It is the library which houses all of the classics. I can only read one at a time, but I am glad the shelves house many more, because I will be back.
The older I get, the more I realize that I will never “get it all done” and neither will you. With all of the opportunities that are available to you and to me in this great age in which we live, to be able to “get it all done” means we must ignore the mere existence of a wide array of wonderful choices. What a sad existence that would be.
The length of my list is a testimony to the wide variety of interests I have, my thirst for knowledge, and the overall outlook that tomorrow will be better than today. As long as there is a healthy list of opportunities, there is a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to “seize the day,” and an attitude that when the night comes, I can say that I did something to make today count.
When will I get it all done? I hope the answer is never!
MaggieSeptember 15, 2009 10:17 am
I am part of Janet Taylor’s Principal’s Professional Training and this was our first assignment. This article hits home because as an Administrator, we will continue to add to the list. Each day, I look at my list and realize that it does continue to get longer. I feel so relieved when I can scratch off just one item. It means that I have completed a task.
mdSeptember 15, 2009 10:20 am
I am in Janet Taylor’s Principal PLC in Chilton County and this is our first assignment. I read your post “When Will I Get It Done?” and it certainly gave me a better attitude about my long list of things I need to do today, both at work and at home. I will visit your blog again. Thanks for the inspiration.
dfinlaysonSeptember 15, 2009 10:26 am
After reading your article, I will look at what I have to each day differently. As a principal, I also keep a list of “to do list”. After getting the school started each day, I decided which item will get my attention first. I cross them off as I complete the project. Janet Taylor is the instructor in this class.