The pages were thick, milky, and lined with dots, as if each blank space was also an ellipses…
My life, namely my productively, went through a profound shift recently, thanks to the addition of a new notebook. I always carry with me something to write upon – mostly notes for articles, questions and ponderings that plague me on the subway – but this purchase specifically and defiantly affected my everyday life in a way no other notebook has. As every artist knows, its essential to keep close at hand articles upon which you can release sudden inspirations. Like the musician that finally found his muse and companion guitar, so this new notebook and I suddenly bonded; it is truly my perfect thought catalog.
At every chance, from the morning commute to the lowly hours lying in bed before sleep, I craved to fill the notebook. But my shift in character wasn’t so much from my normal scribblings of varying value as it was a little thing I had always been afraid of before: The To-Do List. Originally delegated to folkloric housewives, the To Do list is, in reality, our gateway to a productive and conscious life.
I began writing ‘To Do Lists’ for my few days off each week. The practice allowed me to keep track of both essential tasks and agendas, as well as keep visual reminders of activities I could look forward to; the item -Clean House sat dutifully above -Make delicious infused bourbon on no particular Wednesday. The lists kept life in track, gave it understandability, planned purpose, and laid out a blueprint for the kind of person I wanted to be. Best of all, it provides an immediate assessment to your awareness. Are you blindly, numbly going through the motions of the day? Or are you consciously, with attention, providing time and energy to things that are important to you?
When we have days off, the weekend perhaps, especially after a long week of spreadsheets and inboxes and meetings, it can be difficult to be diligent about planning our so-called ‘free-time’, a moniker that is, in and of itself, quite terrifying. But this planning is essential for accomplishing the kind of life you dream of. If you’ve been waiting around for the perfect day to stumble upon you, I suggest you now take it upon yourself to make and plan that day. A little planning can go a long way.
As Twyla Tharp says of the creative process: it’s different for everyone. The best you can do to help is to make it easy on yourself. For me, all that took was the right notebook, and a mere $11 later, my day off filled my heart and home with a sense of accomplishment. The truth of it is, your life deserves purpose. It deserves the kind of devotion that brings about reward. A little page titled ‘To Do’ may seem menial, but a carefully considered path to your own happiness is anything but.
Brain Food: be wary what you fill your mind with first thing in the morning. If your routine is to open your email or check Facebook upon first waking, you might be doing more harm than good. Famed businessman and empowerment guru Brendon Burchard (who’s ‘The Charged Life’ podcast is another great way to refocus drive and purpose) states that checking inboxes at the very start of a business day actually decreases productivity. Instead, find the type of reading that will awaken your awareness and curiosity. For me, that means a print version of the New York Times, where ads for discount yoga can’t distract me. (A powerful Pinterest board totally counts.)
Find your Notebook: Maybe a blank book in your purse isn’t your best ally for productivity. What about a large chalkboard placed where you’ll see it every day, say in the entry hall or the kitchen? If it’s large enough, empowering quotes will also remind you to stay positive and focused.
Plan your reward: For a day of hard work in your professional or personal life, designate a reward to look forward to. Buy a bottle of champagne or a new bubble bath scent that will make you look forward to that feeling of having ‘it all done’. The point isn’t to cross things off your To Do list, but to be present for the things that fill your daily life. A practice that brings you back to the moment and into yourself can solidify your consciousness.
Your entire life is unfolding around you every single day, in every single moment, and every single moment is a chance to be aware of what is taking your attention, your time, and your affection. This is your life, give it purpose and a path to fulfillment in all you do, big and small.
You deserve it.