Checking Boxes


Recently I have been trying to catch up on episodes of the OLD Podcasts (Optimal Living Daily). It’s a daily podcast where Justin Malik, reads blog posts mostly about minimalism and personal growth.  The episodes are short, 7-9 minutes. I always get something from the selected readings whether big or small. 

Every now and then for any number of reasons, I don’t listen and the episodes pile up in my podcast library. It had been a couple of weeks since I’d listened so on a morning walk with my dog, I was determined to get through as many of them as she would allow. One after another, episode after episode, I listened. Collecting nuggets of wisdom and tips to implement when I got home. 

But because I was rushing through them I never really letting the nuggets sink in.  When I moved on to the next episode, that pearl of wisdom was gone. Forgotten or only a sliver of comprehension remained. There would be no chance of incorporating it into my life without listening to it again. 

After listening to a reading of “Benefits of Doing the Same Thing Every Day” by Anthony Ongaro of He talks about how he benefited from making a list of 5 things and did those things everyday for a month.  

I wanted very similar benefits in my life so this time I stopped to think about what 5 things I could do everyday to enrich my life. To make strides in the areas I've had difficulty moving the needle in.

He says after a month he was able to write more and with more ease. I wanted that too.

In the end, because I felt I was similar to the author I decided to incorporate his list of things to do every day with one additional.

His five things to do every day were: make the bed, read 20 pages, write 500 words, meditate 5 minutes, workout.

A few days passed and I was steadily checking things off the list each day, happy I was actually completing tasks and with relative ease. Immediately feeling the benefits of making the bed. It may sound like a stupid task but I work from home and it feels good to pass in and out of a bedroom that is neat. 

Confident I would soon reap the benefits of ones that were tougher to complete like meditation, five minutes of meditation felt like an hour, and writing 500 thought-through and edited words, when I frequently suffer from what I’ve coined, FOMF, fear of making (it/anything) final.

On this particular day I totally forgot to do my Spanish exercises. So just before bed, I grab the computer and rush through five exercises and crossed it off the list. 

I’d crossed it off the list. Completed the task. Check. Done. 

I then took a second to think about the exercises I just completed and I couldn’t recall much of the information. I got it done and was able to say I did it. But Where is the benefit? What was the purpose if I hadn’t learned it or even gave myself a real chance to retain it? 

Checking off boxes is not what it’s about. 

I’d been on this personal growth journey for awhile and had been making lists and checking things off, making more lists, doing more things and crossing them off one after another. I was focused more on completing a task. Marking it done.  In this instance and with so many others, I was checking boxes. Expecting benefits by osmosis, I guess.

But then what? The box is checked but I am no closer to reaching my goal or reaping any of the benefits of daily practice. 

What I should be asking myself is, have I made a real effort to achieve my ultimate goals? Why am I doing these things daily other than in an, it would be nice if… kind of way.  Without the why there is no sustaining motivation.

In the era of “Just do it” and “Any effort is better than not doing it at all.” Yes but not really.  Enough with just get it done.  If it’s not done with purpose, then why?

I may have lifted my arms and squatted when the trainer on the screen told me to but if I’m not focused on sitting as far back and low as I could each and every time and really feeling my glutes, then why do it? It’s not going to give me the results I’m looking for. Trust me I’ve tried it.

A 20 minute, focused workout is far more beneficial than an hour of half-assed, unfocused “working out.”

If time is limited one day, learning 5 new, useful words, really learn them, instead of the 5 exercises specified on my list.   


My six things to do every day are:

  1. Make the bed. (feels better to work in a neat space.)

  2. Spanish reading/listening (communicate with my in-laws)

  3. Read 20 pages (gain new perspectives.)

  4. Write 500 words (this is what you do)

  5. Meditate for 2 minutes (better focus)

  6. Workout (look and feel stronger, more flexible.)

Moving forward I will hold myself accountable for not simply completing each task but completing them with focus and comprehension.

Also, as a matter of practice, I no longer add these 6 things to my daily to do list. They reside on my tack board as a reminder of what I want to do every day for my personal growth goals.