Is your to-do list ruining your life?

I ran across something in my reading recently that put flesh on a professional problem I’ve been wrestling with all year.

Mountains, each in different shade of blue

To-do lists, like mountains, can obscure the goal.

The reading was chapters 12 and 13 of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, not a text that one probably associates with topics like instruction and teaching writing.

Joshua is the story of the young man who succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites at the end of their 40-years of wandering in the wilderness. Moses had gotten the people so close they could see land of promise; Joshua’s job was to lead them to seize it from the people already there.

Chapter 12 relates the history of the opening battles of Israel’s attempt to claim their promised land. The chapter ends with a list of the 31 kings Israel captured. In the New International Bible, the rhetorical structure stands out: Joshua 12:9-24 is a checklist:

the king of Jericho, one;

the king of Ai, one;

the king of Jerusalem, one;

…………………………  31 kings in all

The parallel structure of those entries makes it clear that items are being checked off the to-do list.

The data is on the spreadsheet.

The results are quantified.

Applause all around.

In the NIV chapter 13 opens with the statement, “When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.”

I’m at the Joshua point in my life.

I’ve been ticking things off my professional to-do list.

I’ve done work that’s been good quality, useful, helpful, worth doing.

But I didn’t conquer “very large areas of land” that were waiting to be conquered because I lost sight of my vocation.

Yes, I messed up.

My vocation is teaching teachers to teach students to write nonfiction.

I need to refocus on my vocation in 2016 and not let unrelated tasks dominate my to do list.

As the year comes to an end, do you have a sense that your to-do list is aligned with your core work as a teacher?

Or do you feel that you’ve gotten away from what you believe is your vocation?

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