For many of us in today’s world, multi-tasking has become a way of life. We’re always on the hunt for new time management solutions. We read books and articles aimed at helping us “optimize our schedules” or “maximize efficiency.” We download productivity apps. We make to-do lists a mile long. A day well spent is often defined as one in which we have achieved maximum results by expending minimal effort.
Productivity unchecked has a price: When we are too focused on trying to accomplish everything, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to determine the importance of anything.
When we substitute productivity for presence, the meaningful work we’re being called to do gets easily tangled together with the inconsequential tasks of everyday life: the email lists we want to unsubscribe from, the texts we feel compelled to return as soon as we receive them, the household chores and projects that seem to never stop needing our attention. Our to-do lists become an ever-evolving hodgepodge of low-hanging fruit and deep work. But because we love checking boxes and feeling productive, we shamelessly tackle the easy tasks first. Which, of course, ends up leaving the most important, challenging, rewarding work for some unspecified time in the future that may or may not ever come.
Today friends, let’s remember that we have a choice. Let’s give ourselves permission to weigh all things that require our time and energy before committing to any. And let’s make a promise to begin viewing life, not as a list of tasks to be completed, but as a constant invitation to decide what matters most to us.
Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” A haunting notion to those of us who can easily fall into the trap of foregoing the challenging, more meaningful work in favor of the quick and easy win. But as we watch our days spill over into the reflecting pool that is our life, we can be sure of one thing: Not all tasks are created equal. Not all efforts carry the same weight. And when we spend our days convincing ourselves that all things matter equally, we’re actually creating a life in which nothing really matters at all.