Lifehacker readers love a good to-do list list. We’re goal-oriented, and we like to feel a sense of accomplishment. But what happens when you’re not making as much progress as you’d like?
When you’re a little lost, and you can’t seem to figure out what you’re next move is?
One way to ground yourself, writes Jocelyn K. Glei, who hosts the Hurry Slowly podcast about productivity and living a fulfilling life, is to look in an unexpected place for inspiration.
“The designer Maira Kalman once told me that she likes to start her day by reading the obituaries,” writes Glei. “It sounds morbid, but she does it to be inspired and gain perspective. To ask: What is the measure of a life?”
It’s a way to encourage yourself to track the progress in your life that matters, she writes. Even if we do know what we want to do, the sheer number of steps and moving parts involved in accomplishing it can feel overwhelming. How do you cut through the minutiae and figure out what matters?
When I find myself hunched over my computer, powering through my email, I try to remember this. Do I want my tombstone to say:
Jocelyn Kendall Glei
“She checked all her email.”
Or do I want to strive for something grander?
What about you? Do you want to be the person who regularly attains “inbox zero,” or do you want to achieve something more meaningful in your one wild and precious life?
And you also learn a lot about the lives of people across the world who have made differences in the world in their lifetimes. One recent obituary that stuck with me is about Joachim Ronneberg, a resistance fighter during World War II who led a raid that thwarted Hitler’s efforts to create an atomic bomb. But you don’t have to read just the obits about people with grand, “notable” lives. People everywhere have done remarkable things and lived full lives.
Another way of framing it, I thought earlier this week, is to think about what people/activities/places/things/accomplishments from this year, 2019, you’ll want to reflect on in later years. What will you want to tell kids or grandkids about that happened all the way back in 2019? That you took a chance on a new job, or travelled to a country you’ve always been curious about? That this was the year you made a serious commitment to someone, or made a certain memory with your brother or sister?
The morning, as you’re preparing for your day and running through all of the things you have to do, is an ideal time to read an obituary and reflect. As Glei writes, it’s an opportunity to define “meaningful metrics and milestones that will keep you engaged with the long-term creative projects that matter most to you.”