“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.” —Lin Yutang
I like lists. Especially todo lists. They help me clarify what needs to be done and then systematically track my progress. The problem, though, is that inevitably the list grows, and soon there are more things to do than there is time to accomplish them.
This use to bug me—and still does a little—because I especially like checking things off my lists. The thought of never getting to the end of the list, and always having more things that need to be done, isn’t something I enjoy. But the reality is there will always be more things that I could be doing than I’ll have time to actually accomplish. Meaning, it’s inevitable that some of the things that could be done will be left undone.
So if this is the case, and some things will ultimately be left undone, the question is, Which things will they be?
If we don’t intentionally choose which things to do and which things not to do, we run the risk of letting the items of lesser importance steal our attention from the items of most importance. We may check more things off our list, but still never get to the things that mattered most.
This has been a hard lesson for me to learn—this idea of being OK with not getting everything done—but I’m slowly making progress. I don’t like seeing a list of things that still need to be done, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s better to focus my attention on the few things that matter, and be OK with leaving some things left undone.
Yes, being able to get things done is valuable. But getting the right things done is priceless.