Posted in Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Mindful Monday

Why Do We (To-) Do It?: A Mindful Monday Post for Tuesday!

One Monday in February, this was my to-do list! South Jetty Park, Florence, OR, USA.  Photo Shan Jeniah Burton.

Hi there, and welcome to my very first Mindful Monday Tuesday post! You can learn more about Mindful Monday, and the idea behind it, at Silver Threading!

So often, in our modern world, life seems to become a matter of checking things off to-do lists. There are so many options for planners, organizers, paper and online calendars, and other options intended to help us to get through those lists, while, at the same time, separating us from some of our money.

But why do we do it? How do we decide what goes on that list? What makes the cut, and what doesn’t? What happens if one of our beloveds needs us, and the list sits there, waiting and possibly accusing us with its mere presence? What about if we have a tired day, or an unanticipated opportunity, injury, or occurrence?

A few years back, as I was learning how to incorporate more joy into my family’s life, I realized that I spent a lot of my time doing things just because I thought I “had to”. I hadn’t given any thought to what the benefit was, or whether I actually wanted to do them.

When we get too wrapped up in our own lists and routines, we can forget that every item on the list represents a portion of our lives. If we complete it, we’ve spent that amount of our life in the process. If we don’t, there may be a lingering sense of obligation that saps some of the joy and energy out of all the other things we do instead.

Because, if we get too hung up on those lists, too devoted to them, we can fall into the trap of “If It’s Not On the List, It Doesn’t Count”.

I’m learning to look at my list mindfully, and consider what I’ve included, and why. I try to frame mylist things that will allow me to move toward larger life objectives:

  • I strive for greater peace and clarity in my life, so I have meditation and my intentions journal on my weekly to-do list.
  • I want to be more in touch with my physical self, so there’s a t’ai chi class that challenges and fulfills me, and a goal to do physical things throughout the week.
  • Same thing for time with friends, connection with my beloveds, and various writing, hometending, and yardtending items. Each of these is a step toward a larger goal.

My to-do list is fairly general, and specific, at the same time. I like a broader swath, so that I can have space to adapt to life as it happens.

Items make the list if they’re important to me. Sometimes, that means that something I might prefer not to do makes the list- like, writing homeschool reports, which I suspect will never make the list simply because I want to write them – I don’t. Our real life is far more textured and amazing than a report could capture – I’d rather focus on the living part. But we value our life as it is, and in our current state of residence, complying with the law means writing the reports.

Living the way we do matters, so the reports go on the list when it’s time, and I know the potential cost of not doing them.

Words of Wisdom from my friend August!

For most things on the list, though, the consequences of letting the item slide are negligible on any specific day. I can list the things I did instead, and be happy in the knowledge that I listened to myself and my inner sense of things – my mood or energy level can be different, when it’s time to address the list, than it was when I created it.

An example:

  • Last night, I attended a write-in with my local NaNoWriMo group (we meet year-round, and that’s on my list because I thrive on the combination of writing sprints, food, and writerly chatter with some very cool people).
  • Three of us stayed late, then I went to the store, my head still full of stories, because we needed things like toothpaste and dish soap.
  • I came home, spent some time with my family.
  • I wrote all night and well into the morning.
  • I passed an hour or two connecting with others on Facebook.
  • I collapsed into a fertile dreaming sleep for four hours or so.
  • I woke to coffee and conversation with my Accomplice.
  • I revised what I wrote last night.
  • I puttered with blog visits and comments.
  • I watched some television, mostly as background.
  • I roused myself, and mowed the rest of the front lawn.
  • I planted the last of the pansies I bought a week ago.
  • My Accomplice came home with pizza and groceries as I was finishing, and I made sure my help wasn’t needed with that.
  • I came back to the story of the day, which is now drafted at 4500 words.
  • During the day, there were moments of connection with those I love.
  • I was tired, from not much sleep and an active mind and yesterday.
  • I honored that, in the way I lived.

It’s nearly 11pm now, and I’m hoping I’ll have this post up by midnight.  almost 3am now, with a much needed rain a counterpoint to my laptop keys as I finish up this post. I’ve passed the whole day without giving serious consideration to my to-do list; but it should be clear that I wasn’t “just doing nothing….”

My life is at its best when there’s a base structure that allows time and space for – well, Other Things. Things I didn’t put on a list, but which make life – more.

Learning that wasn’t on any to-do list, but it’s changed my life!  

Follow the links for more Mindful Monday or August McLaughlin (brand-new Indie Chicks Badass Blog Awards Most Blunt Blog winner!)

Noticing beauty wherever it happens to be is in my indelible soul to-do list. Photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, February, 2015.


I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

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