Your Two Lists

Everyone (you and I definitely included) has at least two very specific, very opposite lists—you likely haven’t written the lists down, but they’re probably in your head.

The first list, the list we grumble about and try to avoid, is a list of activities that take our energy. Often and unfortunately, the items on this list seem non-negotiable. They take time and effort, and though maybe they’re not essential, doing them certainly improves quality of life (think cleaning the bathroom and taking out the trash).

The second list, the list we spend time dreaming about and rushing through other things to do, is a list of activities that give us energy. Most of the time, the things on this list aren’t crucial (crucial = eating, sleeping) to everyday existence. But time breezes by when you’re doing them, and they always result in increased energy for life (think spending time with someone you love, or investing in a talent you enjoy).

There are a few lessons in this.

The energy-taking list will never end. There will always be items on it, and they will always seem urgent. But here’s a life-giving secret: most of the time, they’re not as all-fired important as they pretend to be. Usually, you don’t have to complete all the items on this list in one day. Caveat: this list is not a bad thing.

Very few people will understand the importance of protecting your energy-giving list. It’s a lot easier to duck out of an event early because your aunt is in the hospital and might pass away at any moment. If you tell everyone you’re leaving because you want to practice throwing pots on the pottery wheel in your garage, you’ll get a few skeptical looks. Caveat: you shouldn’t always leave places early because you’d enjoy doing something else more.

Learn to balance your lists, and both sets of activities will be better. When you can manage your time to include activities from both lists, you’ll get the most out of all your activities. Vacuuming the floor and changing the oil are both better when you’re looking forward to what you’re doing next. And throwing pots (making pottery, not chucking bowls) is a sweeter reward when you’ve finished mowing the lawn or washing the dishes.

Make your two lists and learn to balance them. Life is too short to spend the entire thing scrubbing floors and clipping grass (unless those two things give you energy—then, please come live with us).