I heard this expression recently, and it made me laugh. Because I am definitely a human doing. And I like that. I like being busy.
I have things that I do every day in addition to volunteering, linked to my goals in life, which I never take a day off from. Currently my daily resolutions are to:
- Write 750 words of my journal
- Write something purposeful – a blog or article or idea
- Pursue some writing work
- Research future yoga and travel ideas
- Attend or teach a yoga class
- Do my own self practice of yoga
- Do core strengthening and flexibility exercises
- Practise my Spanish using the apps on my phone
They’re all things I like doing. But as I’ve tried to become more mindful, I’ve noticed that they’ve started to feel very checklist-y. Someone asked me:
“What are you so scared of that you have to distract yourself by being busy all the time? Can’t you just be with yourself?”
This threw me. Why couldn’t I take a day off these activities? What would happen if I did? How would I make sure I was “making progress”? And then I told myself to get a grip – it was only one day. Let’s face it, if achieving my dreams was delayed by one day, would it really matter?
So I challenged myself to let go of the checklist for a day.
I didn’t get off to the best start. I initially thought I could still do things that were on my list, as long as I was doing them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I should. I got up for yoga class at 7.30am as usual. I found myself in the class thinking – maybe could do my core exercises after this. I realised that this wouldn’t work. I was going to have to ban the activities on my list altogether, otherwise I would just talk myself into doing them all anyway.
So after my morning dishwashing duties, rather than picking up my laptop to start writing, or my phone to begin language practice, I stopped, paralysed by indecision. What did I actually want to do? I realised that one of the reasons I have a list is because I hate wasting time and it can take me ages to work out what I want. But I stayed with this feeling of indecision, until it came to me. I wanted to read a book in the sunshine.
Later, two friends invited me to join them to practise some yoga teaching assists. I realised I could just say yes, without hesitating because I “should” be doing something else. It felt good. On another day I would have still said yes, but I would have worried about when I would find the time later to get “back on track” with my list.
In the afternoon, I got ready to go for a walk, then realised I didn’t really want to go, and decided to read some more instead. I reminded myself there was no need to feel guilty about the time I wasted getting ready for a walk. It didn’t matter. I let go of the need for every moment to be productive.
I noticed at the end of the day how relaxed I felt, and how nice it was to not be mentally grading my day according to how productive I’d been.
The day off my activities also helped me to discover which of them I genuinely enjoy. I missed my own yoga practice. When I started to go for a walk in the afternoon, what I really wanted to do was some yoga. And I wanted to write, not because I had to, but just because I had ideas in my head that I wanted to get down on paper. I felt excited to be able to do them again the next day. The ones I didn’t miss I decided to rethink – maybe I can achieve the same outcomes in more enjoyable ways.
Am I a convert to becoming a full-time human being-not-doing? Not exactly. I’m still quite attached to my activities, because they’re all linked to goals I want to achieve. But I have learned that it’s good for me to take the pressure off and it’s helped me to be more present too.
If this sounds familiar to anyone else, I challenge you to let the checklist go for a day too. Let me know how you get on…