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Why You Need a Task List

Why You Need a Task List

Come New Years’s Day, most people will take stock of their lives and realize that, maybe they need to change something (or everything) about themselves. Gym membership sales go through the roof for the month of January. People stay out of restaurants and cook at home. The resolutions and goals run the gamut. The problem is that by mid-February (or sooner than that), everything is back to the way it was.

While I have never taken stock in resolutions, I do write down a list of goals that I want to accomplish for the next year. Most of the time, I only accomplish one or two. The reasons for this failure are not surprising.  In my case, it’s usually because my list is a mile long.

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For example, in 2009, I had 11 major goals on it. Some of those goals had big steps associated with them:

Write more music. Put out a new CD of 15 songs or so, combining cello, trumpet, violin, guitar, bass, drums and keys, possibly sax as well (guest musicians will be Caleb and Shawn). Get Studio operational again. Clean shed and create comfy work areas.

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That’s not a goal, that’s a major project. It has sub-goals, tasks, and timelines. Guess what DIDN’T happen in 2009.

By 2011, I hadn’t changed a thing. Still too much on the list; not much got accomplished.

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Now, there’s nothing wrong with goals. Goals not written down are just wishes, and we all know how that turns out. The problem is that, in order to succeed, you need to change your habits. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds in 5 years (measurable and achievable), then you’re going to have to change your habits. If your goal looks like “Lose 50 pounds”, then you are setting yourself up for failure…again.  The secret: Tasks are the roadmap, goals are the destination.

A Task List Helps You Form Habits

Instead, set up a weekly or daily task list. “Do cardio workout Monday” is more specific than “Go to the gym 3 times a week”.

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You’ll still have to go to the gym and do the cardio workout; merely writing down the goal in a different fashion doesn’t melt off the pounds. The difference is that “Lose 50 pounds” seems like a big mountain to overcome; “Do the cardio workout” is something that you can accomplish with just a few steps.

Another example would be that I am learning Blender, an Open Source 3D animation package. “Learn Blender” is too broad (and sad to admit, was on my list of goals for 2009); “Do Tutorial 6 in the Blender manual” is specific…and gets done. The net result is that every day, I am learning a little more about this product that I have wanted to learn since 2009. I won’t be winning any Oscars for Special Effects, but in a month or so, I will understand how to create a 3D model, and the habit of learning something new will have set in.

What are you planning to get done? Sound off in the comments.

(Photo credit: Writing a To Do List via Shutterstock)

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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