Last week, I dropped my eldest (and only) child off at college. It was not a traumatic experience for either of us. She was ready to be off on her own and excited for the new opportunities as well as the new responsibilities; I was ready to let my latest (and best) student take flight. I skipped the obligatory speech about how she was a better person (Jedi) than I would ever be, but I did tell her, honestly, that I was proud of her.

But this transition is an important one for both of us, and it provides me an opportunity, for the first time in nearly two decades, to thoroughly reconsider and reorganize aspects of my life. I no longer have any external pressure to schedule my time in specific ways. While I do have projects and meetings, I am more responsible for deciding what is worth doing - and when. The freedom is both welcome and frightening. I can see why many parents get "empty nest" syndrome. The freedom to order one's life is daunting and forces us to come to terms with our values, our mission, and our dreams.

So, for the past week, I have been enjoying some critical reflection on my life and benefiting from spontaneous juxtapositions.

I have been listening to the audiobook version of The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, watching the movie version of the Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman (a friend of mine is a friend of his - how cool is that??), and trying hard not to be too embarrassed by how I have cluttered up my own life. Some incidents deserve a good laugh. And since I prefer laughing at myself than denegrating others, I'll share in good AA fashion ....

Procrastination by Feeding the To Do List

A few years ago, a friend confessed to me that he procrastinates by maintaining a full calendar and taking on too many tasks. I could see his point, although I thought he was too hard on himself. Now, I'm totally sure that he was too hard on himself. He generally got things done while maintaining this schedule. Over the past week, I've managed to out-do him as a "crazy busy" procrastinator by spending no less than the better part of three DAYS playing around with productivity tools and software. I tried out the beta version of Things, the beta version of the OmniFocus sync to the iPod Touch, and tried to get my Mac, Mobile Me, the Blackberry, and the iPod to all talk to one another. Hum.... Actually, make that FOUR work days of fiddling around with this.

And why did I do this?? Good question. Each time I finished copying my "to do" list from notes, files, and email, I immediately started to stress out and start looking for another solution. Because the list is TOO LONG. As soon as I start actually sitting down to work on doing things, or even to putting them on the calendar (as many good methods advocate), I start to realize that I can't possibly do it all. And that's even before I start putting in notes about when to work out and do actual Jedi training sorts of things!

But why do I put myself through this, other than avoidance? Because I'm afraid I'll forget to do something important! I'll admit that this does happen from time to time. Usually, however, someone reminds me to do it before disaster strikes. So, I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to protect myself and the universe from. Perhaps I simply do not trust my memory (which is thus far excellent) or the Force to guide my actions in the here and now. Perhaps I am simply entrained, like most knowledge workers, to think that this is how I must function (which is what Ferris would say is most likely). But I have to ask myself if there is not a better way - and one that will not involve buying more software (OmniFocus licenses at $79 - which is substantial, although I've spent more in the past for Franklin or Day-Timer calendars ....).

Which is where other approaches such as Zen To Done, and my resolution to declutter my life, come in. For years, I've felt a particular tension between my vocation as a Jedi and my lifestyle as a frantic modern student/teacher/knowledge worker. Zen (and I'll argue Jedi) philosophy advocate that less is better - but I have been piling on more, more, more. Now, I want to reverse the trend.

So, this marks the start of a journey of a year. To get back on track. To weed out what is not important. To keep what is important. And to recapture the sense of mission I had once as a (not so young) padawan.

Letting go ....