How many Froot Loops can you stack on top of one another before they topple over?
How tall would someone’s tower have to be for you to find yourself impressed?
We often relish the opportunity to declare how many activities we’re balancing. Like a status symbol, our busyness signals our importance. We could pretend the pink ones are work responsibilities, the yellow ones are family and household chores, maybe the orange ones are volunteer commitments, and the green ones are hobbies…All hail the one with the highest stack of Froot Loops!
I am always in awe of people who seem to be able to operate smoothly amidst a schedule bursting at the seams. My personality type is such that I easily get overwhelmed when I’m trying to stack more than a handful of Froot Loops at a time.
I recently added something new to my morning prayer routine. After looking back on the previous day and reflecting on what went well and what I could have done better, I try to identify the most important thing to accomplish in the day ahead.
And let me tell you, it’s bloody hard.
I mean, it’s a simple question. And sometimes it’s easy because there’s a specific, obvious task that needs to be completed: Deliver this speech. Finish the manuscript for editing. Paint the ceiling.
But most days, it’s not so obvious.
Answering this question goes against my inherent desire to cram my day like a Volkswagon Beetle stuffed with seventy-six circus clowns. When I survey the day before me, I usually see a smorgasbord of Very Important Things, all seemingly equal in significance. If I happen to settle on something like “spend time in the studio,” I have to fight the urge to also write “andfinishthisandworkonthatanddontforgettotakeoutthegarbage.”
I’m not alone, am I?
The science is clear. We get a tiny yet thrilling dopamine hit every time we check something off our almighty to-do list – regardless of how essential the chore actually was – which encourages us to rush headlong into the abyss of productivity.
I have to remind myself that the question “What is today’s most important thing?” is not asking for the ONLY thing I need to do that day. Or asking me to only do ONE good or worthwhile thing all day.
It’s merely asking me to declare the most important one.
Because, unfortunately, despite my desire to bend reality and make my home in the multiverse, there can only be one most important thing. (See this reflection on how we magically changed the meaning of the word “priority.”)
I have found that oftentimes in this process, my most important thing is to “be open,” because the most important thing hasn’t yet revealed itself at six-thirty in the morning. But that awareness is vital because it makes me more likely to notice it when it comes.
I encourage you to try this, especially if you’re having a hard time balancing all the Froot Loops. Its power comes in forcing you to pause, nudging you to slow down, reflect, and be intentional.
Why does this matter?
This matters because when I don’t identify the most important thing for the day, I’m liable to rush off and accomplish a whole hell of a lot of things. Which seems good and feels great. But if the sheer volume of activity crowds out what was actually the most important thing I needed to do, my life slowly veers off track.
It doesn’t matter how many Froot Loops you can balance if you were supposed to be paying attention to the Cheerio.