Learning when to neglect your to-do list may be what separates the fulfilled from those who crash into a million pieces. And I love to-do lists. Love them. Uptight wedding coordinators would drool over my to-do lists. I have an entire program on my computer devoted to organizing and prioritizing my year. For some, the lists are color-coordinated and systematized whereas others are playing on a mental loop in the background.
Mine almost killed me.
There was never enough time in the day to get everything done, and I found there wasn’t a “work-home” switch in my brain I could flip on-and-off after 5PM. So, work won. The to-do list followed me through the front door, to the dinner table, and on into the night. Though I was physically sitting beside my son as he built a Lego tower, my mind was off solving another problem or thinking of ways to make an idea better.
Fear of failing to complete the list fueled the motorcycle I was driving towards that wall. Faster and faster and faster it went until I smashed into a million pieces. At that point, I knew something had to change, and it wasn’t a “practical” fix. Like I said, my organizational skills were superb. I had scheduled my burnout down to the nanosecond.
Here’s what I learned: My schedule was not the problem. It was a heart issue.
The noise quieted when I started believing that my value as a husband, father, and pastor really were dependent on what God thought of me. If He was proud and pleased, that was enough (even when there were checkboxes left unmarked on my list).
“Your to-do list needs to be less about what needs to get done, and more about who you want to become.”
– Bill Hybels
Whether you are an OCD calendar-keeper or a shoot-from-the-hip sort of planner, God wants you to do one thing: Be conformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29, 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Does your work-life look more like Jesus today than yesterday? Are you working excellently as to the Lord and not for men? If you have a family, do your children and spouse experience the aroma of Christ because of you? Are you present with them?
I knew something dramatic had happened in my life when a friend asked me, “so, what are you planning on working on this week?” … and I couldn’t remember. It was sitting in my to-do list, waiting for Monday morning. But this was Saturday (and my son is three for only fifty-two Saturdays). Whatever problems that needed solving could wait.
I still love my to-do list (the program is called Priority Matrix…and it’s the greatest). It keeps me focused and allows me to check out when I go home. But clicking off the boxes doesn’t increase my value as a person or leader. It’s made to be neglected – so I can focus on what matters most.