“We make lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco.
The problem with lists though is that we tend to include things we enjoy doing like writing, reading, meditating, along with other habits we should do, like exercise or our grocery shopping. When we fail to cross an item off the list, we feel like a failure. Said author and meditation expert Susan Piver on the obsession of getting stuff done:
I knew I had to give up trying to be disciplined in any conventional sense. It doesn’t work. And since the definition of suffering is trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result, I had to put myself out of my misery.
So she looked at her daily habits a different way. Instead of scheduling her to-dos, she instead did them out of sheer pleasure. She remembered why she pursued spiritual practice and writing in the first place and rediscovered a lighter, organic creative flow.
Once I remembered that my motivation is routed in genuine curiosity and that my tasks are in complete alignment with who I am and want to be, my office suddenly seemed like a playground rather than a labor camp.
If we want to be successful in any field, we have to do the work. Everything is practice. The problem lies in our interpretation of discipline and motivation. If the task becomes routine, the activity we once loved loses its purpose. But if we follow Susan Piver’s advice and convert tasks back into joyful exercises, we may be able to plan less and play with the process more.
I suggest that instead of being disciplined about hating on yourself to get things done, try being disciplined about remaining close to what brings you joy.