The Real Purpose of an Action List
In my previous blog posts I talked about the importance of writing things down, about having a comprehensive Master Action List and about having a full inventory of your commitments.
The obvious reasons for having such a Master Action List are:
You don’t using up your brain storage to remember things, but instead are actually using your brain to think productively.
To clearly define your goals and next actions.
To always know what your next most important things are that you need to be working on.
Over time I have heard many people complain about the discipline it takes to maintain such a Master Action List. People share with me that they don’t want to be constricted by their Action List, that they want to have room for spontaneity and creativity. I have heard statements that people feel a slave to their to-do list. Often times those are reasons why people decide not to stick with a system and eventually fall back into responsive mode.
What I would tell those people is that they have only seen and appreciated a limited benefit of an Action List.
I want to share with you the most valuable benefit of working in a system and maintaining an accurate Action List. It is simple, yet when you get to experience it for yourself it will be very profound and will make the work it takes to maintain a system look like nothing.
So here it is: You don’t just make project and action lists to get those things done and then do nothing else in life. You maintain and process these lists so you can actually do the things you really want to do. And do those wholeheartedly, with your full attention and focus, not distracted by anything else – fully present.
I know this sounds so simple, but if you have ever been in such a state, fully present, then you don’t ever want to go back to your usual state of busyness and distraction.
In the past when I used to spend time with my daughter part of me would constantly be thinking about something that I should be doing, something that I shouldn’t be forgetting, etc. I was agitated, because I felt torn inside. I certainly was not the father I wanted to be.
Now, chasing a frog with my daughter at a nearby pond – the excitement, the wonder, trying to figure out where it is hiding, just being fully in the moment with her is worth every minute that I spend maintaining my Action List.
To me that is the true benefit and why I maintain a comprehensive Action List. This is the motivation to spend time planning and striving to be efficient and effective. It is well worth it to have such moments in time when I feel nothing pulling on me and I can focus wholeheartedly on what matters most in my life. And the more disciplined I am in keeping a current Action List, the more of these moments I have.