Ask “What’s Essential?”


About a year ago, I made a list I titled “Every Day”. I stuck it in in my writing journal for safekeeping, where it promptly got buried under writing observations, blog post ideas, quotes from authors, and ideas for plot points. I found it today:

In each day there should be time for
Reading good books
Visiting with friends and family
Sitting outside
Eating good food
Helping others
Making plans

While this list was slumbering in my journal, I was very busy (aren’t we all?). On many days, while I was juggling work and family and all the rest, I probably did many of these things. I didn’t get to all of them, though, because I also had to check my email incessantly, read everyone’s Facebook posts, and watch my daily ration of mind-numbing TV.  Oh, and at least once a day, tweet. My days were full, without a doubt.

Still, I sense that when I wrote the list I did it with intent. It wasn’t meant to be a list of nice-to-haves but a list of musts. I captured some moment of clarity about how to live each day so that every one was filled with the important things, the essential things, for me. Then I went about the business of living and forgot all about it.

This disconnect happened because I thought of the list as aspirational – i.e., wouldn’t it be great if “in each day there should be time for…” – rather than as inspirational, a promise. I told myself I would be getting to these essential activities just as soon as I got through all the other important, urgent daily responsibilities. And while I was busy being busy, another year went by.

It is an abdication of sorts to commit an ideal to paper and then tuck it away. It deserves to be front and center, top of mind, out in the light. Here’s why: the list has it all. It includes my consulting work and my writing, my hobbies, my loved ones, my passions, my quiet times, and my joyful times. It helps me focus on the present and on the future and to do all the things I need to do to make the dreams and plans come to fruition.

My Every Day list is now on my desk, a replacement for my to-do list. At the top I wrote “What’s Essential?” as a reminder to myself that each day needs to be lived with purpose. I don’t have to go searching for what matters most, and the words are prompts: Write ________; Read ______; Help _______with ________; Visit with _______; Design ___________; Plan _______; and so on. If I’m doing any of it or all of it, consciously and intentionally, I’m living right.


What’s your Every Day list? What’s essential for you?  Share it with us in the comments.

About Leah Carey

Author, As Simple As Breathing -

4 comments on “Ask “What’s Essential?”

  1. It’s essential that I hit my yoga mat every morning for at least thirty minutes, if I’m not revising my first novel, I’m reading on craft or reading a novel. At this point in my life it’s been about discipline of starting my writing career and this discipline is essential to my growth as a fiction writer. I don’t engage in social networking, I just can’t bring myself to get involved. It’s essential I keep company and conversation that’s worth it to me while I break away and grab sushi.

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