Last weekend I was reviewing my projects and tasks when I recognized how many of the projects and tasks had nothing to do with my goals now. I accumulated this list over the course of the last seven or eight years, and many of the tasks and projects are no longer relevant, and some of them belonged to issues that had been resolved over time. A good portion of them were things I am no longer interested in nor are they worth the investment of my time. Many of them are ideas and projects I would love to work on, but I haven’t touched since they went on the list.
Even though it is critical to capture everything you want or need to do in a place where you can track those projects, ideas, and tasks, not everything can be substantial enough to command your time and energy. Deciding to release myself from the obligation I had to what was no longer relevant, I exported the entire list to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (so I could be sure to have a record to review later) and pushed the delete button. All the tasks and projects disappeared, along with the power they held over me.
I started over, typing in the major projects and outcomes that I genuinely care about and that are going to move me closer to my goals and aligned with my purpose. I added in the commitments I owe to other people, of which there were far fewer than I imagined. The list I deleted had 298 tasks, and the new list consists of 50 in 22 projects. About 15 of those tasks are routine maintenance, the things that I do every week, including things like emptying all my electronic inboxes and physical inboxes, and reviewing my lists and transferring the stuff I need to do into my analog sales planner.
My project list and task lists are now much smaller. All the items on those lists are vital to me now. I liked a lot of ideas and potential projects that are on the list I deleted, and someday a few of them may resurface. What I have now is not a greater sense of control, but also a greater sense of clarity. Which brings us to the big idea.
We collect a lot of projects and tasks and commitments. We make many more commitments than we realize, some which seem small and innocuous when we make them. Over time, the list of things that we have said yes to, and the list of things that someone else commits us to, without us recognizing how overcommitted we are. Each new project or tasks commands a tiny sliver of our remaining time, and energy, and focus. Even though we aren’t always conscious of each of those commitments, they each take a little bit of our psychic RAM, and they contribute to an overall sense of overwhelm.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper provides a sense of clarity. It’s a chance to decide what is important to you, and an opportunity to release yourself from things that are no longer who you are—and no longer part of what you are here to do. If any of what is here resonates with you, I invite you to give yourself the gift of a do-over and write down what you want, what projects are critical to you, and what you should be doing with your limited time and energy to make the contribution you are here to make.
After I deleted my task list, I wrote this post that I published on the blog yesterday: Being Overcommitted is a Sign of Being Uncommitted to Your Goals.