For the past couple of months I’ve been wrestling with my old nemesis, TMDT/NET (Too much to do, not enough time). It’s an ongoing theme which I’ve been examining from different angles, and writing about from time to time.

Why am I overwhelmed now, when Summer House Soaps hasn’t even entered its busy season yet? The beginning of the year is supposed to be down-time, good for catching up.

Yes, but…

So-called “down time” inevitably invites new projects, plans, and so on. When we see all that lovely white space on our calendar, we tend to fill it up. And during the past three months that’s been the case for me. There was a trip to Ohio to visit family and a week-long retreat at the Providence Zen Center. Summer House soaps launched some new products that required package design. And of course the usual stuff continued, like doing the taxes, and working the Boston Gift Show.

So now I have a massive To Do List. I’m painfully aware that I’m more than a month overdue with the Summer House Soap newsletter, and I haven’t blogged in several weeks. The spring garden is crying out for some attention and the house is very grubby. And there’s a gift for my mother (big project) that I swore would finish in time for her 90th birthday (which is tomorrow!) The rest of my siblings will be in Ohio celebrating with her, but I won’t be there because I’m too busy making a gift for her and other things. (Guilt + Irony!) Can I be aware of all this without being “painfully aware”?

A while back a Zen teacher gave me a bit of advice: Pick the one thing that’s most important on your list, and DO IT with 100% attention. Well, Duh, you may be thinking. That’s obvious.

But that’s not what we usually do. Or at least it’s not what I usually do. The 100% part, I mean.

Even as I do one thing, I have trouble putting down the mental To Do list. It’s always nagging in the background, causing me anxiety and a feeling of oppression. Not fun! And not an efficient use of energy.

But I’m working on it. Today I sat down and chose not one, but four items from list. I chose:

    The payroll – an item that’s routine but essential.
    One restore-order project in the soap workshop (putting away stuff that got discombobulated when workmen installed insulation Friday).
    A half-hour walk
    And the project for my mother.

Hmmm….it looks like writing this blog post snuck in there, too. Okay, five items then.

Things that did not make the cut: the newsletter, cleaning the house, garden work, Sunday afternoon meditation group, making soup from those nice beets we bought, calling friends to see if they want to come over tonight and have soup. And more.

There’s a sadness in letting go of these worthy things. And therein lies the rub. Letting go often entails some loss. But if we try to do everything, we can never do anything at 100%.