Culture | Habits | Learning | Lifestyle | Personal Growth | Productivity

The Angel’s Share

Take a tour of a Scottish distillery and you’ll see the black stains on the sides of buildings and wonder. This is the residual build-up from centuries of evaporation of the angel’s share, the percentage of scotch that evaporates through the casks to go where it will. I’ve often thought of this evaporation process and will offer up a bit more to the angels in my own particular life when having a dram outdoors.

Yesterday I scanned my to-do list, drew an X in every bullet I’d finished and put an > to every bullet that I simply didn’t get to and had to push to another day. This process of organizing tasks is from the appropriately-named bullet journal method, which transformed my way of managing my to-do lists a few years ago. There’s something satisfying about drawing an X through a nagging bullet, getting it done and knocking that bullet to smithereens. Crossing off the bullet is a supremely satisfying way of patting yourself on the back without making the words disappear as they would if you’d simply crossed out what you’d completed. Why diminish what you’ve accomplished?

X Wash the dishes (Done!)
X Write and post the blog (Done!)
X Row 5K (Done!)

Simple, yet effective.

But then there are the arrows (>). Tasks moved to another time, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a week. But they’re moved on anyway, to be written on another page.

The punted tasks, like:
> Call Rick to schedule meeting (punt)
> Go to store for printer ink and paper (punt)

Make no mistake, these punts tortured me for years. I simply couldn’t turn the page and let the day’s tasks be. No, I’d beat myself up for not getting everything on my list done. That voice inside your head that reprimands you for not being more focused, or not working hard enough on what was important… or whatever. Head noise.

In reality, I tend to put too many things on the list in the first place. By learning to live with them, to kick them forward to another specific day, I’ve stopped beating myself up about what didn’t get done. More frequently now, I think of these punted tasks as the angel’s share. Sorry, internal critic, that one wasn’t meant for me today, that was the angel’s share. Or maybe a future version of me. But since tomorrow isn’t guaranteed we’ll call it the angel’s share.

Either way I’ve learned to smile a bit and close the book on another day of tasks and events. I’ve done my part for today. And that, friends, is enough. Slàinte Mhath!

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