Do You REALLY Need To Do This Right Now??

I have to confess that I am a hopeless completionist.

It’s kinda like being a perfectionist, but instead of being obsessed with getting things perfect, I’m obsessed with getting things done.

I hate having outstanding items on a to-do list. It makes me twitchy, and I have a very hard time focusing on creative work when I can feel all that life admin hanging over me.

This is a pretty significant problem because the universe tends towards entropy and so there is never any end to things that need ticking off the list.

But of course, you don’t make great art, or a wonderful life, by scrubbing down your window caulking as soon as you notice a speck on it.

You make great art and a wonderful life by turning your attention to the tasks that actually mean something to you — the writing, the camping trip with your kid, the singing lessons you finally let yourself arrange.

This creates a constant tension, and I think this is why many people never feel quite satisfied with any part of their life.

We want to cross everything off our list so we can feel we’ve done our duties and lived up to our expectations of ourselves.

We also want to create something bigger than ourselves, so we can feel like our lives matter and we won’t be forgotten.

And there’s nothing wrong with wanting both, because both are important. Crossing stuff off the list means that life moves forward without too much stress or interruption. Creating a life’s work brings purpose to each day.

The trick is to identify which tasks need you now, and which ones can wait.

The window caulking doesn’t need me now. Nor does the blanket waiting to be mended.

But the work, this work, does need me now. If I don’t write today, all the ideas and thoughts I’ve had since I woke up will be lost.

Yes, I might still remember them tomorrow. But the universe will be a different place tomorrow, and I’ll be a different person.

Tomorrow will unfold differently, and my particular mood and the day’s chain of events will mean that even the same ideas would be expressed differently.

And so there’s an urgency to today, to every day, to do the work that’s in front of you.

To start writing the idea that woke you from dreaming.

To book that session with the therapist.

To take yourself to the forest for some rest.

Please, take it from a recovering completionist: think ruthlessly about what needs your attention now, and put the rest away.

Do the work that’s in front of you, because today is the only day you have to get it done.