Self-care is on trend these days.
I swear, no less than a dozen social media posts in the last few weeks have popped into my feed with some variation on the promise to SAVE TIME, GET MORE DONE, MAKE A SELF-CARE TO-DO LIST, all with these 10 quick tips. One of them was actually an ebook titled "53 tips to save time for people who need 25 hours in the day." Yes, I do need more time, but hell no. I'm not going to spend the time I do have reading a 20-page ebook on how to save time.
That stuff isn't real self-care. It doesn't nourish your soul or reconnect you to the people who matter or help you find your center. When your to do lists get ugly, when your stress builds or when you find yourself wishing for 25 hours in the day, it's time to do the self-care that actually matters.
Quick fixes won't help you become a better leader and they won't allow you to show up as your best, whole self.
Instead of doing more to fix the feelings of overwhelm, try slowing down and getting clear on your priorities.
Always doing more is not an effective self-care strategy. (And in case you were wondering, I've tried making the self-care to do list. In the end, it's just a list of more.things.to.do.)
Italian novelist Umberto Eco explains that “The list is the origin of culture. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists.”
If lists are the origin of culture, then I must be one of the most cultured people around.
Because I freaking love lists.
A calm feeling of control sweeps over me when I make a list (I may or may not have added "make a list of house projects" to that self-care to do list I mentioned above). But list-making can be a real bitch, because as soon as the list is made, there are more things to do than I have time for. It never ends. And when the list gets long, it's hard to keep my priorities straight.
Now, I'm not here to bash to-do lists. Lists are great, for all the reasons.
I'm not even going to tell you to stop making lists.
I am only here to tell you that there is one list that you probably don't have on your docket, and it's the list that could change everything.
It's your Not-To-Do list.
Square founder and Twitter chairperson, Jack Dorsey has famously shared his Not-To-Do list. Warren Buffett says his secret to productivity is his Not-To-Do list. Both use their lists in different ways. Warren's list identifies tasks that are important, but secondary to his primary goals at the moment, so he's not going to spend time on them. Jack's list is all about small behavior changes like, "don't eat sugar." Both lists help these leaders identify things that are getting in the way of doing what's most important.
Do you have a Not-To-Do list at the top of your list app or taped to your wall?
I didn't think so. It's time to make one.
Seriously. Stop. Grab a pen. Make a list.
Start small, just think about this week. What's one thing that is less important than the important stuff like connecting with someone that matters, sharing a meal, reflecting on an important milestone, or maybe even just sitting in a quiet room all by yourself? Write that one thing on a piece of paper or add it to your app.
You've got yourself a Not-To-Do list.
The best part about this list is you don't have to do anything, but you still get to cross items off at the end of the week.
I made a Not-To-Do list too. I had a list of tasks this month that left me longing for 28 hours a day, so I made a Not-To-Do list for the month. It's a hodgepodge of things--some work-related, some not...all are things that have been keeping me from focusing on my priorities.
I'll share my list right now.
I'm rocking (or is it not rocking?) 2 out of 3 Not-To-Do's. I've successfully avoided binge shopping for new plants at the garden center, and I said no to the parent advisory committee at my son's preschool. Checking email in the evenings? I've got some work not-to-do there.
Self-care can't be checked off a list. It's a work in progress. I can’t tell you what it looks like for you to show up as your whole self, but I promise it absolutely matters that you do. And getting clear on what’s less important than the most important stuff is the place to begin.
What’s going on your Not-To-Do list? I’d love to know. Tweet me a photo of your Not-To-Do list.
This article originally appeared in the Impact + Measurement--a curated newsletter for mission-driven leaders. Each issue is filled with useful resources to help you lead with purpose, make sense of your data, and tell a better story along the way.