You know the people who write something on a to-do list so they can immediately check it off? Maybe you’re one of them. Today I noticed a related symptom: a reluctance to do something that was not on my checklist.

I’m hedging myself around with lists and scheduled tasks, afraid I’ll miss something vital without them. It’s not as simple as not trusting my own memory, though there’s that too. It’s more like I don’t trust my priorities. In the area of work, I don’t believe I will remember to spend time on the long-range goals and plans–the ones I’m ultimately evaluated on–because every day is so filled with opportunities for distraction.

Even take a pleasurable pursuit like reading. Goodreads is addicting because it lets me prioritize and bring order to the endless array of books. Will I ever read all the books on my list? No, but checking off one (and adding ten more) is almost as enjoyable as reading itself. This year I elected to do a Reading Challenge, an even further attempt to organize and achieve.

I sense several factors in this drive toward schedules and lists. As mentioned above, they evidence my desire for achievement. Even if the list is self-selected, like the Reading Challenge, I believe (perhaps wrongly) my efforts will be rewarded. A second facet is a search for completion. I use the HomeRoutine app to track recurring household chores (in daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly rotations). It’s an arbitrary completeness, but one I strive for. Finally, in all my lists, I think I desire rest. Lists can be a cruel master. They promise relief once they are fulfilled, but never are. Even when it comes to free time, lists plague me with guilt. Am I getting enough time outdoors? Am I developing creatively? Am I peaceful enough? De-stressed enough? Have I done, thought, worked, been … enough?

No list can answer that question for me, though every one is an attempt. I’m trying to find the list that will assure me I’ve lived the right life and exceeded all the expectations. Yet rest eludes me because I know the answer is both far simpler and far more complex. If there is truly no bucket list, still less a Christian bucket list, how then do I fill my days? That freedom can be a frightening thing.


One thought on “Routine

  1. “Lists can be a cruel master. They promise relief once they are fulfilled, but never are.” This is so true. And I really relate with lists and free time. I’m trying to let go of some of those lists. But I also want to be productive — wanting to be productive has been something that has caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety since I was a kid — and I’m not sure how to go list-free. Maybe list-light? Not sure yet.


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