Photo courtesy of Bohari Adventures
Last summer, I had steady stream of friends staying with me as house guests. One evening, one of my guests was gazing over my shoulder as I went through my nightly ritual of typing up my to-do list for the following day. After watching me for a minute or two, eventually he shook his head and said, “I couldn’t live like that.”
Er, live like what, exactly?
“With every aspect of my life planned out to the last detail, no room for fun or spontaneity. I would find that extremely boring.”
At that moment I realized just how misunderstood to-do lists are, as I’m one of the most spontaneous people you’ll ever meet. I’ve been known to move to another continent on a whim (twice, in fact), and I frequently drop everything to accept last-minute invitations to hang out with friends, or pop over to Munich for Oktoberfest just because I feel like it, or jump on any other crazy opportunities that come my way.
The only reason I’m able to do these things is because I’ve intentionally built a life structure that allows for that level of freedom, by making sure that all the essential tasks get done and shifted out of the way in the most efficient manner possible. If you’re always staying several steps ahead, which is what a high level of organization allows, then you can easily jet off for a few hours (or a day, or a week) whenever the mood strikes you, without stress or guilt.
I see people who repeatedly take all day to do things that could easily be done in a couple of hours, providing that they would set aside a few minutes the night before to create a plan and a list. When you don’t have a detailed plan, you can spend your whole day not knowing exactly what to do next, backtracking when you realize you forgot to do something, and generally wasting time that otherwise could have been spent on the things you really want to do.
Left to my own devices, I’m pretty much your standard, disorganized, right-brained creative. This is where to-do lists come in handy – allowing me to sculpt that life of freestyle creativity, by ensuring that I get the essential foundation work out of the way first. It’s reasonable to want a life defined by personal freedom, and it only takes a few minutes to put the structural supports in place to allow that freedom.
Do you have a personal organizational system that helps you get things out of the way so you can enjoy your life?