Lessons from a Garden Task List

I struggle with tasks and getting things done just like the next person. I’m always on the lookout for the reasons why that is, though – lessons are to be found everywhere for me.

Whether my tasks are work-related or just things in my personal life, I’ve found some things that help me understand my success & challenges better.

For some tasks, I’ve managed to get them into a routine or habit. Those end up being the easy ones to work through since I’ve put the effort into developing a schedule around them.

As I’ve written about before, procrastination is a real chance to learn more about myself and the things I may be avoiding in order to feel better in the moment. Being curious about my procrastination has also become a tactic for helping me diffuse the effects of procrastinating.

Today, I wanted to take care of some indoor gardening tasks. Initially, I had planned to address these in a few days on the weekend. After a few days of this procrastinating, I just decided to dive in. Once I had started, I got in a rhythm and really enjoyed the entire process. Coming out of that, I took some time to reflect on what I could learn about these activities to perhaps apply to other tasks in my life. Are there any general concepts that I could relate to other areas in my life?

It’s up to me

This one is probably blindingly obvious to anyone who lives on their own, but it also applies if you are in a family or group situation. If it’s something that I’ve personally identified as being important, it’s primarily up to me to see that it gets done. If I’m in a group or family environment, I can still own the responsibility to share the importance of the task with others even if we end up sharing the responsibility to get it done.

If upon careful & thoughtful examination I determine that the task is not important anymore, that’s ok as well. Situations change and it’s fine if the reason for performing the task has changed as well.

It’s not a reflection on me

Taking the task at its face value and being objective about it is a good strategy in general. The task (that is, the reason for its existence, or the reason it hasn’t been done yet) has no bearing on my own worth, value or actions. Getting that judgement out of the way is key for me to be able to get through my tasks.

With the garden, many of the tasks end up being related to clean-up or starting things over. Early on, I would feel that a plant dying was a reflection of my inattention or negligence. Cleaning up dried up leaves would foster similar feelings, especially around my expectations that weren’t met on the perceived “success” of the garden.

Taking an objective viewpoint has freed me quite a bit when approaching my tasks. While I take things seriously, I don’t take them personally. Imagine if a farmer felt regret over every individual spinach plant that didn’t make it across acres of fields? That’s impractical and gets in the way of the work. So, I now understand that in the process of performing a task not everything will go according to plan. That’s no reflection upon me and as long as I stay diligent & learn from the experience, that’s all that really matters

Pay attention

Giving my tasks more attention & awareness actually helps me get into a state of “flow” more easily. If I’m distracted when performing a task, my mind will be looking elsewhere and I feel that it takes a lot longer for the task to be done. Even before starting a task, I may have a preconceived idea of how long it will take which can sometimes dissuade me from starting.

Paying more attention to the task at hand and bringing more awareness to what I’m doing and how I’m feeling gives me focus and actually helps me feel as though time doesn’t matter. Flow states make time very malleable. And paying attention becomes much easier when you start small, focusing on each individual step instead of racing ahead and anticipating what’s next.

Take pride

Usually we reserve any feelings of pride until after we complete a task. We sometimes use that as a “reward” and think that it’s premature to celebrate our efforts before something is done.

Instead, I now take the time to feel pride all along the journey of performing a task. After all, almost all tasks are made up of smaller units of work so why wouldn’t we celebrate the completion of these steps along the way? We can use that as “fuel” to propel us further down the road.

Feeling pride when I work through a challenge or issue is also valuable. Not everything will go smoothly so having the faith that I am resourceful and can find a way is important in keeping a healthy sense of pride.

It’s part of a bigger plan

My garden is pretty small – it’s about 6 square feet indoors in front of a window. It’s not enough to sustain me at this point – I still need to buy vegetables elsewhere. But, it’s part of a bigger plan for me – to slow down, to be more appreciative, to be in awe of nature, to be healthy, to be able to share, to be able to learn, to feel connected to something much bigger than me.

Making a context for my tasks helps me see them in the frame of a bigger picture. When a task feels isolated & small, it’s easier to neglect it and put it off. But when it’s in a bigger context and has a “why” attached to it, it becomes much easier to persevere. Finding a “why” might take some time but it’s well worth the effort to explore the reasons for doing something. It can also be a process to refine what you truly need and perhaps even see if the task is still truly yours alone to complete.

Having taken the time to work through my garden tasks, and to then reflect upon them to write this article, I do feel very thankful for the lessons I continue to learn. Thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.