So, you have your to-dos neatly organized into hierarchies replete with contexts, flags, due dates, reminders and God only knows what else. Yet, somehow, it feels as if though the vast improvements you were expecting have eluded you. More likely than not, this stems from not paying an appropriate amount of attention to your to-be list.
To be precedes to do
At the risk of delving headlong into a philosophy debate, my highly empirical evidence suggests that most people precede what to be with what to do. In busy times such as these, it’s tempting to focus on quantity rather than quality when knocking items off a to-do list, thus manifesting the illusion of effectivity coupled with instant gratification.
Alas, anyone who has achieved something through anything other than pure fortune, knows that achieving particularly difficult goals usually involves not only a fair amount of dedication and hard work, but also the ability to focus on accomplishing the tasks that yield the greatest gain in terms of advancing the status quo.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s by far preferable to at least increase ones level of organization by focusing first on what to do, as it does aid to some extent in ones current situation whilst at the same time generating awareness in the long term concerning whom to be.
In the end, however, it is by far preferable to work by the order of first determining whom you want to be, for then to determine what you need to do in order to become that person.
Easy-peasy to-do prioritization
Simply put, getting the right things done can easily be illustrated through the act of driving: just as you can have a perfectly enjoyable day driving at random, you can get a lot done by checking random items off your to-do list – neither of which, alas, will bring you any closer to your goal. Or, at any turn, you may follow the clearly labelled road signs for the most efficient route – akin to choosing the task which will yield the greatest advance.
A to-be list is a short, carefully wrought list of the things you want to be that, for maximum effect, should be paid the appropriate amount of attention every waking day of your life. By knowing who you want to become – or continue to be, the act of making decisions regarding what you need to do to achieve what is on your to-be list is infinitely simplified.
In chances that it may help kickstart your own process, here are some random examples from my own to-be list:
- Be a role model and mentor to my children
- Be someone my life partner loves and admires
- Be a person worthy of trust and respect to colleagues and customers
- Be adventurous
- Be curious
Over the years, I’ve found that those who have spent the most time reflecting on whom they want to be are nearly always those who achieve the most – and that their lists tend to revolve around values of core importance to themselves, as well as how they relate to those they care about. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the amount of material items tends to recede as the list evolves.
A little piece of advice
Last, but not least: if I were to share one recommendation, it would be to read your to-be list every day before you make the first pass at your to-do list – which for most people coincides with the point in time where they chart out the remainder of their day. In doing so, you maximize your ability to become who you want to be, and in the process assume responsibility for your progress.
Daunting? Yes. Empowering? Very much so.