For better or for worse, my to-do list does a bang-up job of keeping me busy. I add to it, celebrate when tasks get crossed off, and stress over the ones that linger too long. It can often feel like I am the servant of my to-do list.
Adding a layer of regret prevention has helped it to serve me.
Recently we were explaining the concept of “decades” to our kids and how we were starting a whole new one. It occurred to me and Kim that when this one is over, we’ll have two teenagers and Lucy will likely be moved out. Yikes.
Meanwhile, I’m still over here clinging to the 1980s and 90s.
I was reminded of a list I made a few years ago, one that’s more important to me than my to-do list: 10 Things I’ll Miss When My Kids Grow Up. Before I had children, I dreamed of all the fun things we’d do together. But when you’re in the harried, exhausting thick of it, it’s not hard to let those aspirations slide as you slip into survival mode. And as a fairly ambitious entrepreneur and business owner, it’s just as easy to get caught up in the next product launch, the next initiative for growth, the next line item on my to-do list.
So I’ve started incorporating these things – the mundane but fun stuff I’d regret not doing more of – into my almighty to-do list. Monthly “date nights” with my kids are automatically scheduled into iCal indefinitely. I have a chart in my Bullet Journal that tracks little monthly goals, like how many chapters of Harry Potter I’ve read with Lucy. They live alongside reminders to file my taxes, update our website and write the article for next week’s Insider.
Do I need a reminder on iCal to take my daughter on a date? Apparently, because if I don’t, they don’t seem to happen, at least as often as I’d like.
I blame Adultitis.
If we’re honest, most things on our to-do lists aren’t all that urgent or important. It’s just that Adultitis tricks us into believing they are. Meanwhile, it bamboozles us into believing that there will be plenty of quality time for the people we love, you know, later, once a few more of the other “fake-urgent” things are completed. After which – wouldn’t you know it? – three more magically pop up.
In the meantime, Adultitis is patiently and methodically running out the clock on us.
We are fooled by the little dopamine hit we get each time we check off another meaningless item from our to-do list. And Adultitis celebrates because we’ve wasted another opportunity to do something that actually matters.
Maybe you don’t have kids. Maybe your kids are already grown and have kids of their own. Maybe you have regrets about things you wish you would have done when you had the chance. No matter. The past is behind us and there’s nothing we can do to change it.
Instead, let me ask you this: Who are your favorite people in your life, right now?
Make a list of 10 things you like doing with them. Things you’d miss if they were gone.
Now take that list, a put it somewhere you’ll see it often. Better yet, schedule those things into your regular to-do list.
Not only does this make your to-do list serve YOU for a change, it coats it with a powerful layer of regret prevention, and causes Adultitis to weep silently in the corner, where it belongs.