don’t let internal “shoulds” hijack your day

the words you use matter.

When I have things to do, I think need. I need to do this, I need to do that. Stacking one thing on top of another in an endless mental to-do list is a great way to increase mental pressure.

During meditation yesterday, I realized nothing I was stressing about was a need. They were shoulds. I should go pick up that workbook. I should clear out that drawer. I should sort through those clothes.

I also realized that the world would not end if I didn’t do those things. None of them were even important.

fridays are particularly difficult.

Fridays are my half-day. I work on administrative tasks (billing, etc.) for a few hours, do some writing, then a house project or two. I clean the entire house, spend intentional time with my kid and make the best dinner of the week. That’s the goal. More often than not, I begin by getting sucked into a work project I didn’t plan. I never get to the house project, and time with the kid is nothing exciting (10 LEGO minutes vs. going to the park).

On Friday I wake up feeling like I have the whole day ahead of me; I don’t need to be anywhere. By afternoon, I’m overwhelmed by all the arbitrary tasks I’ve assigned to myself.

reality?

The arrival of the Sabbath is not dependent on my vacuuming.

I need to recognize that my desire to have a spotless house before the candles are lit is only a desire. A should, not a need.

Need vs. should applies to the average work day too — the unending tyranny of the urgent vs. the important. Check email once and your to-do list is 15 tasks taller. But do those tasks need done now? Choosing our Most Important Tasks before the day begins is a sure-fire way to make life easier. So why don’t we do it more often?

Busy days force you to focus. Slow days are more difficult because they’re open-ended.

“If I were to let my life be taken over by what is urgent, I might very well never get around to what is essential.” — Henri Nouwen

Let’s pay attention to when we mentally use need vs. should. Let’s make sure that distinction is a choice.

This post originally appeared on Medium.