Day 8: Three Questions

To Do lists were ruining my days. I’d make these long lists of chores to complete and cross each chore off when done. But then the crossed out items would, much like a biblical family tree, beget and beget and beget until the “done” items morphed into more To Do’s. At day’s end, I would look at my list and see an unwieldy string of Undones overshadowing the “done,” an unsuccessful, unaccomplished day.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting things done. I was. The problem was really that I wasn’t giving myself space and time to recognize what I had finished. Ironically, my list was cluttered. Each time I checked My To Do list, it kept presenting an impossible number of daily tasks. I was setting myself up to fail.

When, on New Year’s Eve, I declared my end to writing To Do lists, I did so because I needed to back off of trying to Bycram so much into one day, one morning, one hour, one minute. I was busy and that wasn’t going to change. But I wanted to be intentionally, more mindfully busy.

So, instead of the To Do list, I started writing Daily Dids lists as a way to reflect on my day. (I couldn’t just give up making lists cold turkey!). I started with simple but important things (I ate a good lunch, I graded one class of papers) then started including items that I often take for granted as givens (I took a breath).

Because I was also reflecting by making this list, I decided it would be interesting to make my Daily Dids a list of questions. I thought about this one day while reading the book The Three Questions with the kids.

In The Three Questions, a picture book retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s short story of the same title, Jon Muth presents a young boy named Nikolai. Nikolai is walking around, asking his friends to answer these questions:

“When is the best time to do things?”

“Who is the most important one?

“What is the right thing to do?”

By the end of the story, Nikolai learns the answers to these three questions. Leo the wise turtle explains,

There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

“The most important one is always the one you are with.”

“The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

I love these questions and responses in part because they implicitly show the importance of prioritizing. In addition, a few of my own important questions are:

How did I show my family I love them?
How did I learn today?
Did I laugh today?
How did I remove clutter?

What are your important questions?

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5 Responses to Day 8: Three Questions

  1. sedefscorner says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post and have been thinking of my own questions… one does come up from the days when I was a stay at home mother trying to raise two boys … “What did I do that was productive today?” This question, unfortunately did not change for the 18 years I was at home from the first week after I had my first child. I wish I had your book, The Three Questions, at the time 🙂 Although loving every minute I spent with my boys, I think I was too hard on myself, too demanding… not appreciating my own efforts and accomplishment as much as I should have… So, I would like to suggest to add to your ‘Did list’ to love and appreciate yourself… You deserve it.

  2. What an important reminder you’ve sent me, Sedef! We all deserve it — even in hindsight! The productive question is one I ask myself a lot. But I’ve been trying to break that down a bit and think about productivity in smaller ways. We wear so many hats — productive while wearing which hat?? Today I got my kids dressed for school, got them breakfast, got them to school, changed a pamper, got myself dressed and ate a meal…we don’t usually list those items in our answer to the question of productivity. But we should! They are worthy of listing, and if we don’t get them done, none of the “loftier” things on our list can happen.

  3. Ivy S. says:

    This trail of dialogue is really insightful…. I like the question, “How was today better?” I realize that it’s extremely open-ended and broad but it’s a question that forced me (Someone who procrastinates quite often) to reflect. Oftentimes, reflecting draws out the “not-so-happy” of the day… what a drag! Who REALLY wants to recall the downers of the day. I guess I started thinking of creative ways to reflect that drew on the optimist in me. Both of your questions are so important be they’re reaffirming and rewarding. Thanks guys!

  4. I love this question, Ivy! It is so laced with a positive notion that we are always learning, improving, growing — full of potential. It reminds me of one that I’ve tried to ask myself when I get particularly overwhelmed: How can I make the next moment better? I don’t always find an answer, but trying to remember to ask that question helps keep me from running around trying to do too much — and doing not much at all. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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