What to do when “To-Do” becomes “Undone”

IMG_2319-0.PNGToday I am sharing what I have learned and am still learning about practicing peace with the unfinished.
It boils down to realizing that I, myself am unfinished. It is amazing to me how a new attitude can change frustration into forgiveness and disappointment into acceptance of what was just not to be. Frenzied fervor which has whipped me up into a tornado of inefficient, disorganized activities can intentionally be reformed into a planned strategy of purposefully taking whatever comes next, doing my best and realizing that is ALL I can do. If something remains undone I will assess it factually and without guilt. What can I learn in the failure?

If only I had all the energy, strength and time to fulfill ALL the things that I’d like to do. When I was younger I did not have so many considerations; I just thought of something and did it.
However, as age, injuries, obligations and wisdom have hammered on me a bit, I now have to intentionally consider the steps that I take.

The fact is:
I will NEVER have enough time to do ALL the things that:
• I NEED to do,
let alone all those that
• others EXPECT me to do, or
• even those I WANT to do (pleasure, leisure, vacations & hobbies).

As time marches on, seemingly faster and faster like a downhill snow boulder, I have been plagued by all the “should’a, would’a, could’a” done things.

I have felt the pain of failure so many times. The perceived guilt I’ve felt of letting others down by not completing a task may not have been the case at all, as I learned when I honestly analyzed later. I discovered it wasn’t that important to them. It was only a big deal because I “thought” it was a big deal. A part of me believes that a person thinks less of me because I have disappointed them. To look at that honestly, I had taken the focus off of the joys of doing something to help others and perverted it with misconceptions as to what they would think about me?! Yikes!

I think there is a tendency for some people to lean more toward the people-pleasing side of social interactions. On the opposite side of that pendulum swing is that “I really don’t care what anyone thinks of me” attitude. Of the two sides I definitely lean more toward the former.

As I realign myself with the teachings of God’s Word found in the Bible and taught in wonderful church sermons and small group studies, I have learned a far better way that brings sharper focus and overwhelming peace…God’s way is the best way.
My Type-A, driven personality makes sure that the most critical person of what I do or don’t get done is ME! So my natural bent is to be very hard on myself. I used to reason that as long as I demand perfection from myself no one else will be hurt or hurt me. Nope. It’s still sin. I was still putting my own demands above everyone else’s…most especially God’s. But God is working on me to transform my thoughts and actions. He is ingraining the thought that I am not good or bad because of what I DO. Rather I am only good because of what Christ did. It’s not about me or what I do or do not do.

As a reasonably intelligent person, I try to avoid unnecessary pain and learn from my mistakes. This life lesson is obviously still underway, yet I am making progress.

Due to chronic and unpredictable physical challenges I have incomplete “to-do” lists that have items that have moved forward to the next list so many times that I should have them pre-printed on the pad of lists. Obviously, I have to approach my disappointments of undone projects in a new way.

It saddens me to have such great intentions and then not be able to complete that task to the degree I had planned. Therefore, I am trying to be more thoughtful about the tasks that I accept or add to my To-Do List.

Here is my suggestion for dealing with the perpetual to-do list. I ask myself this basic analytical question:

“is this really something I should do?”

Let’s look at that question a keyword at a time.

◽️Really — I need to tell myself the truth! Maybe a reassessment is in order. Maybe circumstances have changed and so should my list. This is especially true if we tend to have a hard time saying “no” to others or get easily diverted by creativity ideas popping into our head that we want to add to our lists. If there are too many demands, we have to intentionally postpone items or even eliminate some from our agenda. There are always more tasks than time to complete them.

How many times have we thought we could do something that later turned out to be so much more difficult than we had first thought?! How many times have we regretted agreeing to take on something without thinking it through first? This is a lesson that one either learns from or repeats often, isn’t it?

We have to say “no” sometimes.

And for me at least, I need to remember that I am NOT a bad person just because I said “no” to one thing (even in helping others). You see, in saying “no” to even some good things, it frees me up to say “yes” to even better things.

◽️SOMETHING — Is this the “right” thing? Is this a “need, an “expectation” or a “want”? What’s the priority? Is it in the right order or does order even matter (just do it)? Is this a task that has smaller steps that are required or easier to complete or require more assets than I first thought?

⚠️Warning: As much as helping others is beneficial and nobel, if we neglect meeting our core needs (self, God, spouse & family) we will have less to give. Then we may suffer frustration, loss of joy and even dread of becoming involved in other lives and activities.

🚨Not all thinking of ourselves first is “selfishness”; sometimes it is necessary self-care!

✈️ It’s like that famous statement given during every pre-flight safety training: “in the event of a sudden decompression of the cabin, oxygen masks will automatically fall down from the ceiling. Grab the mask firmly. Jerk down firmly to start the airflow through the tubing. Place the mask ON YOUR OWN FACE FIRST before helping to place a mask on your children or others.”

☑️Each and every step in that check list is important. If you just notice the mask but don’t grab it and jerk it and apply it to your own face, it will be of absolutely no use to you. . . And you will be of no use to anyone else!

If you pass out due to lack of oxygen you are suffering and will not even be able to help others. But, if you take care of yourself first, then you are equipped with what you need to help others.

◽️I — Am I the one who needs to do it? Am I the right person for the job? Is someone else better equipped to complete the task? Why should I go around in circles trying to perform something that I have neither the knowledge, physical ability or resources to complete in a timely fashion.

There are times when improper assignment of a task or changes in circumstances meeting the challenges gets overwhelming. How many of us enjoy the spinning beach ball or blank blue screen or all those error codes when the computer interrupts our productivity? I don’t know about you, but there are few greater prompts for turning to prayer. I am stopped…by a solid block wall of inability! I have been forced to address such emergencies when I am not well equipped to do so. I HAD to learn enough to get through or avoiding an emergency. However, I will plan on hiring a computer geek to thoroughly work on my computer. They can do it in a fraction of the time and with great skills that I do not possess nor have the time or desire to learn. This is an example of smart re-delegation; NOT me, but someone else gets this one.

◽️SHOULD❓Is it a true, right, useful, excellent idea or activity? Is this the best use of time, money and materials? Not that it is just a GOOD use of time (assets), but the BEST use of time (assets). Why am I doing this? I need to examine my motivation in even doing this. Are my motives self-serving, altruistic, or am I manipulating a situation or what others may or may not think of me? Does this solve a problem or create more? Am I progressing in my goals and in line with God’s will or what I value. Pursue the most excellent to accomplish those things that last. Oooh 😯

◽️DO — This refers to the specifics of actually doing something. When does it need to be done? Is there a deadline or a certain order in completing? How much time needs to be scheduled to complete and process? Too often we forget to include the time and resources involved in: gathering the needed tools & parts, set-up and clean-up or allowing for processes that require additional time (measuring, chopping, cutting, paint drying, food baking or cooking, etc).

The location is important because it has to consider size of work area, climate, access to tools and availability.

No matter what, the degree of effort that I place in doing my very best at a job — the quality of work — is far more important than the quantity. I have needed to remind myself of this often. It’s not how many things that I get done, rather, it’s the quality of the work that I do that really matters. My character is displayed not only in what I have done, but also in what I have not done as well as my attitude about what I do or do not do.

I can only hope that my sharing these thoughts and hints on handling the undone perpetual to-do list will be of use to you.

For those of you who, like myself, face even harder times managing because of unpredictable health challenges, I pray this has encouraged you to show yourself grace. Be kinder to yourself. Do what you can, take breaks often, and celebrate the accomplishment of even the littlest of steps.

It is said that life is about climbing the mountain getting ever higher. If one tries to look at the top of the mountain from it’s base, he likely will not even see its peak which has perforated the clouds. One could become discouraged and give up trying. But I encourage you dear friend…take a step. I don’t care if it is a long on or short one, fast or slow. Just take a step! Now you are that much closer to the top.

One person’s trek down the hall a few steps to the bathroom may be equivalent to another’s marathon in terms if effort and energy drain. So comparing our journey to another’s may be grossly unfair. So stop comparing your accomplishments to others. Instead, truthfully assess your own self in relation to the load that you yourself bear. Now, take that next step!!!

No matter what any other person says or does . . . NO ONE (including you) can ask for anything more than your best!

So, at the end of the day, if you are looking at an unchecked box or more on your To-Do list …so what? Did you do your best? If you did – then rejoice in what you’ve done; no matter how small, celebrate the victory. If you did not – then ask yourself what you can learn in the truthful analysis of the unchecked box…”is this really something I should do?”

By living this way, there is peace:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”
Colossians 3:23 (NIV)


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