Check Off the Checklist

I recently worked on a checklist-like product, and immediately had a gutturally negative reaction to the whole idea.


Which isn't okay, because I live for lists. I manage localization in a custom spreadsheet; TickTick keeps my daily tasks organized; my Gmail folders are separated by urgency.


But lately, the whole idea of more to accomplish has just been too much to take. I work through my tasks just fine, but things that are supposed to be relaxing are suddenly taking on the characteristics of yet another thing to tick off.


New tv show? Well, now I have three seasons to get through. Text from a friend? Gotta make sure I answer that, and schedule a coffee date two weeks from now to make sure that relationship stays alive. Some light reading? Alright, but don't forget about the 42 other books on your to-read list...oh, and the dozen articles you have bookmarked for later. Even my Spotify playlists and NPR podcasts have become something to mark as done instead of enjoy.


My initial reaction is to blame it on the pandemic: It's hard to separate personal and professional life in today's world. But I think that's only part of the equation. The culture of fetishizing productivity was born way before 2020.


I've been trying to set aside days or hours to take a deep breath and accomplish nothing. Call these breaks what you want (self-care time, mental vacations, whatever) but they don't always work, because putting "Relax" on the bottom (or top) of a list doesn't delete the rest of it.


I'm fully aware how petty this sounds in light of real issues. Oh, you're having a hard time relaxing? Poor thing. But I'm seeing the same emotions in more and more people, and I don't think it's going away on its own. Or without consequences. If we can't find joy in the little things, how can we care about the big ones?


I just brewed a cup of my favorite coffee and downloaded a new book. I hope to accomplish more than the satisfaction of another checked box, but we'll see.