Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Other Idol of Choice

I have a to-do list app on my phone. I also have an agenda for school where I keep daily to-do lists, and my lesson plans are basically to-do lists for that hour. And on particularly busy days, I combine all of my various lists into one master hand-written list -- hand-written so I can physically cross items off and watch them disappear rather than swipe them to another day.

I've always been like this. When I taught high school twenty years ago, I had an agenda with a list of things to do when I got to school in the morning, a list of things to do over my planning period, a list of things to do at the end of the day, and a list of things to do at home in the evening. I misplaced that agenda one day and was completely lost for that twenty-four hours -- useless to humanity.

I know I'm not the only to-do list fanatic out there. A young mother friend on FB said that she writes "Keep children alive" on her daily lists so that she can definitely cross that one off at the end of the day and feel like she accomplished at least one important task. Had to chuckle at that one -- wish I'd thought of it.

I also know that I come by this listing urge naturally. Our eldest took an online Meyers-Briggs test the other day, so we all got to talking about our personality types. I'm an INFJ (the rarest type, apparently). The "J" means that I prioritize the decision-making part of my life over the information-gathering part -- I'm focused on getting stuff done. (I, Hubby, and the youngest are all J's; the eldest is a "P". That explains SOOO much.)

But times have come in my life when I am concerned about my focus on productivity. That probably sounds ridiculous to most of you -- who could have a problem with being productive? And I don't really have a problem with being productive. But I think I define the value of my day -- and my own personal value, as well -- by how productive I've been.

When Hubby comes home and asks, "How was your day?", my mind immediately goes to my to-do list. Even if I've had a joyous time with my girls, or had some meaningful conversations with friends, or whatever . . . if the to-do list remains unscathed, I have a hard time defining my day as good. My one focus throughout the day is to get things done. Not to enjoy people, or hear God, or make a difference in humanity, but to get things done.

That doesn't seem right.

There was one Christmas vacation while we were in Iowa when we came home earlier than usual, and I had a couple days at home that actually, truly felt free. I had no immediate responsibilities. I decided to completely set aside my to-do lists for those two days and simply do whatever I felt like doing in that moment.

It was the most bizarre feeling in the world. But it was also a good feeling.

I couldn't sustain that any longer than two days, however. Homeschool was starting up again, and I needed a couple days to get lesson plans done and the home life in order. And much as I enjoyed living spontaneously for a short time, it felt good to get back to knowing what needed to be done and doing it.

I still wish, however, that I could find a happy medium. That I could find a way to choose one day out of the week, at least, that I am not ruled by the tyranny of the list. Sunday should probably be that day, shouldn't it? Sabbath and all. A day set aside to worship God, not the god of productivity I serve much too much of my week.

Might have to experiment with that . . .

1 comment:

Ona Marae said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I am the opposite of you....I am an information gatherer, not a get-it-doner...but I have a list, too. I find my list in invaluable in making sure I don't waste the day God has given me in tangents. I include the random acts I plan to do, and the people I want to connect with (a card or phone call) on the list, again, so I don't loose them in my lack of direction and focus. And i love handwritten lists!!! I cross somethings off for the sheer pleasure of completing a particularly heinous task, but typically just check them off so I can see what was done today that might need follow up later in the week, so I can put it on my calendar.
I guess as an INFP, I need the focus or format of a list or I can slip into somewhere else and loose the gift of the day given me. I Enjoy calling friends and sending cards, so I put those things on as well and feel my list is reflective of my ministry. Perhaps you could try that, Gwen, since you function well with your lists. Turn your worry about productivity into a blend of the productivity that bothers you and what God is calling you to do. Include your prayer or Bible times on your list. Check something off when you have a meaningful conversation with a daughter, because that is possibly the most valuable thing for that day. (Yeah, I do add things to the list as I go, sometimes after I do them, just so I have a record of them! Okay, stop laughing!)
I don't think lists are bad, or even a dependence on lists is bad. God gave us the capacity to create and use is how we create and prioritize them that is important. If it works for you, make it work for you better...make it work for you and God. AND take the Sabbath off, as uncomfortable as that might be sometimes, because even with all I have said about the value of lists, I also recognize the value of the day of, not so much rest for me, but rest with God. Thanks again!