To-Do Lists vs. To-Feel Lists

What is your relationship with to-do lists? Are you compelled to create one every day? Do you enjoy looking at your list, or does it taunt you with the tasks yet to be completed?

For a change, you might want to try an exercise I recently read about in Danielle LaPorte’s book The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms. (If you haven’t read this book, put it on your reading list and prepare to be inspired.)

LaPorte discusses our daily to-do lists and then poses the question: “What if, first, we got clear on how we actually wanted to feel within ourselves, and then designed our to-do lists?” As a lifelong maker of detailed to-do lists (complete with little boxes beside each item to be checked off), making a “to-feel” list seemed initially like a radical idea.

The directions are simple. “First, get clear on how you want to feel,” says LaPorte. “Then, do stuff that makes you feel that way.” Put that way, it seemed so easy. Last week, I decided to give it a try. I detailed a few ways I wanted to feel and then created an action item to support each one. Here’s what it looked like:

1. Desired feeling: Confident and prepared for upcoming workshops. Action: Practiced my talks and revised my PowerPoint presentation for two upcoming speaking engagements. Result: Appreciated the space to think about my main points and felt more confident and in control.

2. Desired feeling: Happiness. Action: Bundled up and took my ice skates to our neighborhood rink. Result: Skating in the sunshine, with the rink to myself, singing loudly to my iPod — yes, joy achieved.

3. Desired feeling: Wanting to create momentum and move my business forward. Action: Wrote this blog; did a little research for a book project; brainstormed possible workshop ideas and partners. Result: The creative juices flowed. I was reminded that I can take steps to move my business along.

Here’s what I noticed about this exercise: It was fun! Accomplishing the tasks in this manner immediately connected me to the positive feelings they evoked. On the other hand, I also recognized that it was hard to not give in to my ingrained habit of checking my to-do list. Clearly, new practices take effort. I’m looking forward to working at this one to make it a regular habit.

Will you give this exercise a try and let me know what you notice?

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