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Failing with your To-Do list? || Acharya Prashant, at SPIT Mumbai (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner (Q): So, we often have many tasks to do in our day-to-day life and we make a to-do list, but we fail to complete it and the loop goes on every time. So, what can be the other ways to overcome this?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Right the right things in your to-do list, and then you'll be forced to complete them. The reason why the to-do list goes unattended and abegging is because it is full of worthless tasks. You write one, two, three, four, five, and six to-dos. Not one of those six is something you can love to complete. Love is missing; therefore, you find excuses to avoid those six tasks, six out of six.

Then you push yourself using the thing called willpower and with great difficulty, you manage to complete two or three out of the six. And two or three is enough to cross the line somehow and get you passing marks in whatever examination; life has all kinds of examinations. And then again, the list is remade next day, and again you find two out of six, three out of six. The cutoff has been cleared; you have survived for the next day to repeat the same story.

The problem is not the absence of willpower or motivation or whatever. The problem is that you do not know the tasks to take up. When you pen down something, when you assign a task to yourself, ask: Is it important? If it is not important, why must I pretend to give it importance? Why must I even jot this thing down?

Let me be bold enough to omit it or strike it out. And if something is indeed important, why can't I sit with it for five minutes and appreciate its importance? If something is important, don't just write down four words about it. Give four minutes to it, just four minutes, and ask yourself: why is this thing important? Why? What does it give to me? What does it turn me into? How does it help me raise me, strengthen me, purify me?

And if you have good enough answers, then you will find it has become impossible now to avoid that task. You'll keep everything else aside and commit yourself to that task if you really understand its importance. So, we see the problem lies not in the absence of willpower but in the absence of understanding. Most of us complain of lack of motivation, but that is hardly a problem because motivation helps nobody. You do not require motivation; you require realization.

You do not realize whether something is important. Have you seen how motivated you are just by yourself, inspired from within when you really know the importance of something? Have you seen that? If somebody in your family is sick, do you require to be externally and artificially motivated to call the ambulance or to put that person in some car, some vehicle, and rush him to the hospital?

Do you feel demotivated? No. There are so many things you just spontaneously feel inspired for. Why? Because there is some kind of clarity. You know the task holds something for you, and that's what energizes you. You know what this task is for. Unfortunately, as happens with most of us, happened with me as well. We do not know why we are doing a lot of things we do.

Why are we there in an engineering campus? Because that's the in thing. Why do we find ourselves in a particular department? That's what our rank gave us. Why am I in a particular hostel? Pure chance randomness, somebody allotted that hostel to me. Why do I have to attend a certain course? I don't know. I was given a timetable and a schedule, and it said the mechanical workshop Mondays from 8 AM to 12 noon. So, like a zombie, I am standing there.. First of all, I don't know why I am there in mechanical. Then I don't know why I am there in the workshop, and then the workshop assigned me some tasks. I duly wrote that down on my to-do list. How will you feel inspired to take that task up? You have no relationship with that task. Do you see what is missing? Love.

You just don't know why that task needs to be done. They have sent you to the foundry or to fitting or to carpentry or to welding. How many mechanical chaps are here? Nobody? The college does not have mechanical at all? All right.

And there would be a lot of people who never wrote a proper line of code in their life, right? The entrance exam would be testing you on PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics), correct? Not on your programming skills, not on your knowledge of computer science.

So, along with PCM, you might as well have had Hindi or Marathi or Sanskrit or biology and you can still be here, right? So, you come here and you look at a thing called the computer for the first time and then the most advanced language called FORTRAN or COBOL is taught to you. (jokingly) Nobody got it, that's okay. (smiles)

And you are told to write a program for this, this, this- arrays and stacks and this and that- already been assigned that? No? And you don't know, why the hell should I be an expert in stacking? That's the missing link. You do not know why you should be doing something. Once you know why you should be doing something, the ‘how’ - becomes instantaneously clear.

Inspiration just arises. It is no more an external task it is your own. ‘I want to do it, I love it- then you will go even beyond the mandate. Oh! Nice, let me try this one out as well. There are additional problems on the net. Can I try my hand at them?

Spend time with your to-do list and dare to cross a few things out. Even if that means some damage, some repercussions. Don't like it, won't take it up. Out of the six things, I'll take up only four, but to these four, I'll commit my effort, my heart, everything.

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