When we’re young, life pretty much happens as it does, and we follow along in time, adjusting as we go. There’s no time to reflect upon our successes and failures. We’re too busy just keeping up. But as we age, especially when we retire from the work place, we suddenly have all the time in the world. Yet many older folks find themselves overcome by a kind of malaise. Nothing seems vitally important any longer; there’s no sense of urgency. However, there is also no sense of accomplishment, either. This can even lead to depression. But there’s hope. It’s called a “to-do list.”
It’s nothing new. Most of us are familiar with the concept. But are you aware of the changing nature of such a compendium as we age? It’s true. Not only do the lengths of our lists increase, but the character of the entries undergoes a metamorphis as well. Often, we find that there are not enough hours in a day to complete the tasks on our list. Let me give you an example. Take a basic task such as mowing the lawn. It wouldn’t be very impressive to just write down “Mow the lawn.” So, instead you enumerate the various components of the task as follows:
- Check crankcase oil on lawnmower.
- Check gap on mower spark plug.
- Fill mower gas tank.
- Adjust wheel height on mower.
- Attach grass catcher.
- Mow lawn.
What was once an unimpressive single item, to-do list has morphed into a seven-part stratagem rivaling the Marshall Plan—with a good chance that #7 on the list might precede #6 (especially if an empty gas can necessitates a trip to the gas station).
Let’s explore this theory a bit farther. Suppose your list includes three tasks: get a haircut; balance the checkbook; and pay bills. On the face of it, not a very challenging set of marching orders, especially if you are age 40. However, here’s what that same to-do list might look like at age 70:
- Wake up.
- Eat breakfast.
- Get dressed.
- Drive to barber.
- Get haircut.
- Drive home.
- Test pens for writing quality.
- Check batteries in calculator.
- Balance checkbook.
- Attach deposit slips to bank statement.
- File bank statement in looseleaf binder.
- Add up total of all bills due.
- Pay important bills first.
- Make a list of unpaid secondary bills.
- Pay secondary bills.
As you can see, the challenge posed by a to-do list is considerably elevated as we age. It’s no wonder that we’re often not able to check off every task on our list in a single day. But, by checking off just some of the jobs we finish, we begin to feel a sense of accomplishment. Success breeds success, and before long we are feeling relevant again.
Making a to-do list is an excellent way to help us feel good about ourselves. Retired people have a lot of time on their hands. It’s easy to fall into the trap of putting things off for another day. However, this leads to other bad habits like not getting dressed, or failing to eat properly. We all need structure in our lives, but even more so as we age. Making a to-do list, and checking off each task accomplished is an excellent method of reinforcing our own self esteem. So what if we don’t finish every task on the list? Having a few check marks on that list is far better than having no list at all.
So, as Larry the Cable Guy would say: “Make a to-do list and git ‘er done!”
Now, let me see, what comes after “write blog post”? Better check my to-do list.