When Leo Babauta wrote about Most-Important Tasks on Zen Habits, he titled his post “Purpose to Your Day.” I was reminded of what he meant last night when I found myself drifting from one thing to another in my hotel room during a conference. I did some writing, then I found myself playing a game. Then I sat down and flipped through a few browser tabs over and over. I didn’t feel like watching TV or reading my book because I knew I had work I should be doing, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what those things were or the motivation to do them, so I went through the motions without accomplishing anything.
The next morning, I realized what the problem was. I never took the time yesterday to sit down and think about what I needed to do that day. I never wrote down my Most-Important Tasks. So at the end of the day, when I had a big chunk of time to do whatever I wanted, I was stuck in the limbo between work and relaxation. I couldn’t work because I didn’t know what I needed to do. I couldn’t relax because I thought I should be doing work.
That’s what adding purpose to your day is all about. When you write down your Most-Important Tasks, you are saying to yourself “this is what today is for.” If you cross off all the MITs on your list, you don’t have to be productive any more. You’ve won that day, and the only purpose that remains is to spend your time however you want to. And because you did everything on your list, you don’t have to feel like you should be doing something else. You did everything you wanted to do that day. So go ahead and watch crap TV for two hours. You earned it!