How unfinished tasks weigh us down

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Today was my day off.  I had nothing official on the schedule, no office work or band rehearsals or meetings or shows to go to.  Despite this, there were things that needed to be done, and in many ways they were just as obligatory as showing up at my day job on Monday morning.

This sense of obligation is driven by the uncomfortable sensation that something has been left undone for too long.  It’s a heavy, energy-sapping feeling that has a way of blocking action, creating inertia and anxiety and guilt, filling the mind with dread at doing and dread at not-doing.

It can get noisy in a brain that’s trying to cope with unfinished business; in fact, it’s hard to think of anything but a task that’s being avoided.  This is why I’ve been making shorter and shorter to-do lists, trying to finish old projects so that I don’t have to think about them anymore, and trying not to start anything new.

There’s always something new to add to the list, though.  Today it was yard work.  There was no particular reason to go out in the garden today to clean up leaves and branches and trash, but it had to be done eventually and so that’s what I did.  Even if I don’t finish the whole job, it’s enough to know that there won’t be as much of it to do tomorrow.

Any progress is good progress.  Any action, no matter how small, lightens the load and brings us one step closer to Done.  There’s still a responsibility to carefully curate task lists so that they don’t overwhelm, but the lists gain new relevance when they’re lists of things that we can and will do.

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