Over the past week, I’ve been digging into the idea of habits and practices. Specifically how they form us. This morning I had a learning lesson that I wanted to share.

I come up with a lot of ideas. Some are pretty good, and some will never see the light of day. When I talked to our church leadership about moving to Ireland, one said he thought it was another one of Bob’s crazy ideas. (hello from Dublin 👋).

But he wasn’t wrong. I (as I’m sure most people do) come up with ideas all the time. And over the past 20 or so years, I’ve recorded them in Evernote, Apple Notes, OmniFocus, Todoist, and a few other places. Eventually, I end up with so many notes, and projects and to-dos, that I get overwhelmed whenever I open up whatever app I happen to be using at the time.

Because I am working on a dissertation, I began using Roam Research (this is not an ad, I promise😊). I’m in no way a power user, but I have pretty regularly learned new ways to use it that have helped me tremendously.

I Actually Have a Not So Little List

Here is why I mention this.

Yesterday I was working on building an automated daily workflow. One of the steps was to incorporate all of my overdue to-dos. I created the script successfully, and when I ran it, it started pulling in all of my overdue to-dos. There were almost 90. I could feel a vice-like tension on the back of my head as the list went on and on.

I like to make lists and find them helpful. A problem for me is that I feel a sense of responsibility to complete something once it is on a list.

A suggestion I often read is to have an “idea file” somewhere, and when you have time, go there and pull out something you want to work on. That sounds great, but I never have time to look at my ideas…BECAUSE I HAVE ALMOST 100 TO-DOS!!!

Not every idea is created equal

But over the course of last night and this morning, it hit me. I get an idea, and I generally mark it as a to-do. But they are not to-dos; they are ideas.

  • I was walking around Glasnevin earlier this week and saw a restaurant I’d like to try. And I made a note so I can remember it. But it isn’t a to-do.
  • This week, The Table received an important document we need to operate. And immediately, a rush of things came to my head; we need a bank account, we need an accountant, we need…you get the idea. And eventually, we will. But not right now. And since there is a group of people involved, not every to-do needs to be on my list.
  • And again, some things are just crazy ideas that will never pan out. I read something in a book and think, “we should do that!” That doesn’t make it a to-do.

This morning I made two tweaks. I changed my workflow so that only 20 overdue to-dos show up. That felt manageable. Then I went through and deleted a few of them, but most of them I simply turned into ideas or what I call [[🌱seedlings]] in my system.

Some of them I really want to get to. But it likely won’t be this year (did I mention I’m writing a dissertation and part of the leadership community of a church plant?) But when some current projects are finished, they will still be there waiting for me.

How this Relates to Spiritual Formation

One of the ideas I’m trying to get at in talking about spiritual formation and habits and practices is the crucial importance of finding ways to be more human. To become more fully the person God created us to be. The way I was relating to to-dos and projects was providing stress, not joy. For every person I’m close to, in the back of my mind, there is this list that we need to get to…which makes it more of a challenge to simply enjoy and be present. To paraphrase something, I heard Dallas Willard say, “I tend to be a human doing rather than a human being.”

As I write this, I’m reminded of the passage from the Hebrew Bible where we are told that “the one who puts his armour on, should not boast like the one who takes it off”. In other words, I’m just starting with this. Let’s see how it goes.

Now perhaps to-dos and lists don’t cause this type of stress for you. But you have your own things. And this is simply one of mine. But it was having a negative impact on several aspects of my life.

So, I’m off to work on some new practices!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash