I recently read “Things Successful People Do Before 8am.” It was 9.30am at the time. Successful people were already ahead of me by an hour and a half.

Successful people get up early, work out, eat a healthy breakfast, survey the morning headlines, overview what needs to be done for the day and make To-Do lists.

If success were measured by To-Do lists, I’d be at the top of the mountain. My life is a never-ending trail of sticky notes. A million things to do scribbled on little pink and yellow squares: project deadlines, appointments to keep, calls to return, groceries to get, meals to plan, people to see, things to fix.

So many things to do, so little time in which to do them.

I so relish crossing things off a To-Do list that I sometimes add things I’ve already done to a list just for the joy of crossing them off. It creates the illusion and euphoria of amazing productivity.

See there – a big black line through “Drop off recyclables on way to post office.”

A friend floated the idea of keeping To-Be lists instead of To-Do lists. Scratching through those would not be an exercise in speed.

At the top of my To-Be? A better listener, a person who doesn’t just hear, and is quick with solutions, but one who truly listens with understanding. 

Recently, I was digging through my purse for a pen when a woman stopped me to say something very kind. I made eye contact, but it wasn’t until she finished that I realised I kept digging for a pen the entire time she spoke. What’s the matter with me? Please don’t answer and, if you do, hold it to 10,000 words or less.

To Be? A person who knows that time is not a commodity, but a gift – a gift given to us and a gift we give others.

To Be? Generous. To freely share all that I have. No strings attached, no thank-you expected, simply to give because giving is good.

To Be? Attentive. I know the clerks and cashiers and the produce people at the grocery where I shop by their faces, smiles and voices, but not their names. I see many of them weekly. Common courtesy says I ought to pay attention to their names.

At the end of the day, I nearly always wish I had been more in the moment.

Things on a To-Be list won’t be checked off as quickly as those on a To-Do list. By the time I get through some of those To-Be items, the glue on the back of the sticky notes will be dried and worthless. But slow progress is better than none.

By the way, John is the name of the man who stocks produce in the early mornings.

One To-Be down and a thousand more to go.

More from Lori Borgman:

Sizing up the differences in clothes

New washing machine, loads of fun?

Keeping an eye on moms with rear view vision