I have a problem. I don’t know if I should call it a personality flaw or simply a programming error in my brain. But it definitely seems to be something I battle with on a fairly regular basis. I’m probably not unique at all in this but it is framed within my profession as a mathematician.
As a mathematician I am prone to measuring everything, in many cases, quantitatively. It seems that I have taken to measuring the success of my daily life according to the percentage of my to do list being successfully taken care of. I am current reading a book by David Allen called “Getting things done.” The premise of the book is that stress-free productivity is attainable by downloading all your actionable items into an inbox and then regularly processing your inbox into a reliable organization scheme that features a regular review. The stress free aspect comes from the fact that your regular processing and reliable organization scheme and your regular review guarantee that you will get to all the things that randomly come at you and that randomly come to mind throughout your day. The problem is that I have mastered only the first step. I can download my every whim and thought throughout the day, passing all that information on to an inbox that needs to be processed. There, I get stuck. I have yet to provide a location for processing or a reliable organization system for my to do’s. Thus, I know that I have all these things to be done and I don’t get to them in an orderly fashion. So, if my measure of success is successful completion of my to do list, then I am an utter failer. This is especially true since my list is growing larger each day, rather than smaller or maintaining a functional size.
I took a step back yesterday and made a decision. It may be a temporary decision, but I realized that my to do list is not my god. It is not an accurate measure of my fulfillment of purpose. After all, my purpose in life is not primarly productivity, it is relational in the sense that my priorities are God, family and friends. That is followed by career and accomplishments. It cheered me up significantly to simply watch my kids play. To make jokes and play with them. To hug and kiss on my wife. To leave my work at work and trust that as long as I am doing the best I can while there at work, I can’t do more than that and fulfill my purpose. While I am at home, I want to be here. That is successful living, putting God and family first.
That helped to alleviate part of the depression that settled in on my over the last couple of weeks.