Grape-scented delegation and dropping the ball

January 20, 2010

Lessons from markers, dogs, and the 3-letter word


When it comes to creating order in your workspace, sometimes it’s the smallest changes that have the greatest positive impact on your work and well-being.

I discovered an assumption recently that I consider it “free time” when I don’t have a task or appointment scheduled on my calendar. I was frittering away perfectly good work time watching Ellen videos and reading Facebook – and then wondering why I wasn’t getting anything done. Yipes!

Three weeks ago, I started a new practice that is benefiting both my productivity and spirituality.

It has so revolutionized my focus, that I thought I’d share it with you in case you want to try it.

A disclaimer

Now, before you go thinking I’m a genius, I’ll tell you that someone else thought of this before I did. In Abraham-Hicks, they call it the ‘placemat technique’. What I’m doing is a variation on that theme… without the manifest-y stuff. And also with a different outcome. But it’s similar. Aaaanyway…

Big, colorful, and grape-scented

I needed some structure with my work flow.

Since I’m a tactile learner, I love to use huge pieces of paper and sweeping movements with my whole body to think and plan. I am also a raving fan of those fruit-scented magic markers. Mmm. Strawberry… Lime… Blueberry… Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, I like to use these tools and methods because they’re so natural and fun for me. So I decided to use them with the intention of focusing better when I have unscheduled work time.

Monday morning magic markers

At the beginning of the week, I reflect on what goals I want to move forward. I check my calendar to see how much free time I actually have to work on these projects.

Then, using 2’x3′ Post-It(R) flip chart paper, I create two columns. The first column says “Jen” – and I write down the things I’d really like to do in the next 5 days. This week, for example, it looks like this:


  • Plan steps for 4HS
  • Meet with Marketing Director (me)
  • Prep for smARTist event
  • Plan to update December expenses/income
  • Update pricing on website
  • Write article for newsletter

I hang this colorful, fruity paper on the wall next to my desk. When I find myself getting distracted or confused about what I want to be doing, it’s right there. When I finish something, I use another marker and cross it off.

It’s amazing how something so simple can help me be so focused and productive.

What’s in the other column?

I mentioned that there are 2 columns. The second column says “God”. This is one of the most amazing, radical things I’ve ever done in my business. I’m delegating stuff to the Divine.

Now, maybe you’re thinking I’m being blasphemous or that all the recent retreats to the Abbey have made an impact on me. Maybe both are true.

But here’s the thing. Stuff happens every day that I cannot handle. I can’t handle it because I don’t understand it, or it frightens me, or I feel huge resistance to dealing with it. This happens for everyone. Every day. Conflict happens. Surprises happen. Things fall through.

All the stuff I cannot handle

At 3:45am, guess what I do? I wake up and start to worry about all of it. It sucks. Maybe you can relate.

Lately, I’ve started to realize that not a single bit of worrying I’ve ever done has ever changed a thing.

If anything, worry has made matters worse. “What if I don’t make enough money this month?” turns into awkward conversations with loved ones. “Do I have anything to wear tomorrow?” turns into a panicky morning and an uncomfortable day. “Is she mad at me?” et cetera – you know what I mean?

Worrying, no matter how skilled I am at it, is not helping me – or my business.

Drrrrrop it…

As a kid, I remember playing with a friend’s young golden retriever. “Sensi, drop it.” She had a tennis ball, but she wouldn’t obey. I didn’t yell, I just said it calmly, persistently, over and over, “Drrrrrop it, Sensi. Drrrrrop it. Drop. Sensi, drop it. Drrrrrrrop it.”

And some days, I think that’s exactly what God must be saying to me. “Drrrrrrop it, Jen. Drop. Jen, drrrrrop it. “

My ego really, really wants to hang on to control and try to handle everything. Yet there’s a deeper place in me that wants to hand over the scary stuff and the confusing stuff and the hard stuff. And maybe pick it up later when I feel more ready.

So I started this practice of writing a God List every week, along with my own to-dos, to practice dropping it and actively handing it over.

This week, it looks like this:


  • bill paying system
  • my week “off”
  • hard drive backup
  • too much to do

If it’s on this list, it means I have NO idea what to do about it and I’m not sure what my next step is. Because it’s on God’s list, I don’t have to worry. I delegated it. It’ll get dealt with.

I’ll bet you know what’s coming next, but I’m still amazed. After 3 weeks, everything I’ve delegated to God so far has gotten resolved. Inspired Spouse’s broken laptop. Feeling overwhelmed. Snarly budget stuff. I don’t know why it has worked out this way. In fact, I don’t need to know. It just has.

All from writing God a to-do list in watermelon-scented marker.

A word on names: If you wanted to try this yourself, it doesn’t really matter what your religious views are. Instead of a God List, you could write a to-do list for the Universe. Or the Divine. Or the Earth. Or Love. There are thousands of names for the Thing That is Bigger Than Us. I just picked one that works for me.

The lesson

Practice taking conscious ownership of the things you can handle – and purposely giving away the rest to Something Bigger. Scary? You bet. But it’s worth it. It’s clutter-clearing for the spirit.

Thoughts? Yeah, buts? Me toos?


  1. I loved this concept so much I immediately created a page in my notebook called “Delegate to God”. Thanks so much.

  2. Excellent article! I am a huge fan of Abraham-Hicks and even know the book you got the placemat process from (it’s sitting on my dresser right now), but I love how you transcended the stigma of a word – God, Universe, etc… to show that this concept can and will work for anyone. Thank you!

  3. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply this post touched me. I mentally do my best to hand things over to God, but what a great idea! To actually write it out visually on this two column chart. This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you so much!

  4. Jen, what a great letter you’ve written to the world. I love how succinct and honest you are. I love your practical methods and the way you encourage us all to be more gentle with ourselves by example.

    I have been reading lots of Zen Habit blogs and a new idea that has transformed MY workdays is putting my to-list on a sticky pad, one item per page. So I force myself to focus on just that one item until it is done. I also estimate the time I think it should take me to do that item and set the timer on my iPhone to help me stay on task! I have discovered that my distractedness is kind of just being undisciplined. But I’ve also decided to only have ONE “focused work day” where i use this method. Any more than that is very un-artistic! 🙂 Keep writing. You are an inspiration!

  5. This was a great inspiration, Jen! I’ve just been talking with friends about how do we set goals and get organized, and here in your message today is one way to do it!! I’ll have to find a way that is best for me, but having your example is wonderful! Thanks!!

  6. Jesus said: “Who of you by being anxious (WORRYING) can add one cubit to his life span?…So never be anxious…for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.”

    KNOWING this is one thing; applying, quite another. I’m WRITING my delegation list today.

    Jen, thank you again for getting right to the heart (& soul) of the matter. I think you’re brilliant!
    .-= Debbie Rodgers´s last blog ..Book Review: One Hundred Shades of White by Preethi Nair =-.

  7. Trish – Oh! How wonderful! Do let me know how it’s working for you!

    Kim – Me too. Distinguishing between ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ opens up a lot of options. Glad you liked the article!

    Pangaea – I’m smiling at your comment. I feel happy that something shifted in you from reading my article. I celebrate what is changing in you!

    Regina – I just LOVE Leo. And I love the idea you’re working with about ONE task at a time and ONE day a week that you work this way. So amazingly cool – yay for you!

    Chris – Exactly. I always tell my clients that it’s my job to come up with bad ideas they don’t like – because it helps them get *clear* about what they really do need and want. I’ll be interested to hear what emerges your playing with order!
    .-= jennifer´s last blog ..Grape-scented delegation and dropping the ball =-.

  8. Debbie – Ha! You posted before I finished writing above! I love that passage you reference. Apparently, Jesus even gave instructions to not worry about what I will wear or what I’ll eat. I worry about that ALL the time! 🙂

    Let me know how your delegation list comes out!
    .-= jennifer´s last blog ..Grape-scented delegation and dropping the ball =-.

  9. Jen – My to do list is about 12 ft long and has been causing massive amounts of anxiety and stress because I’ve been avoiding working on projects or tasks that I’m emotionally invested in. Then I read your post (and your newsletter just so I could absorb the material again) and it caused an incredible shift in perspective. I realized I could start working on the projects that scared me by following your suggestion and delegating my worries to God. Such a huge relief! I feel like a giant weight has been unshackled from my leg and now I can pick up and run after the ideas and plans that matter to me. Thank you so much for sharing this post. It really helped me out a lot.

  10. Jen- I love this post. Over the last couple of years my daily work has switched from scheduled appointments to project work. Having a system to track it all has been both extremely necessary and slow in coming. The one big thing I’m taking away is the delegate to God list. And, by inference, I’m going to have several “delegate to” categories in addition.

    Thank you for helping me bring some caring attention to this. You rock.

  11. I loved this post. I’m guilty of not doing what you’ve done. It’s inspired my own delegation to God list.

    I needed this post and want to thank you.

  12. This post came at a great time right when I was staring at my very long to do list and doing nothing because it was so long.

  13. I have been focusing on 3 main actions a day and this is a great addition, you are most fantastic.
    .-= Jennifer Louden´s last blog ..The Silence of Becoming A Linchpin =-.

  14. (tears) Wow. I’m beyond words to express how I feel about the amount of freedom this has given you (all of you).

    Jennifer – Wow. Wow… I am witnessing what a shift this was for you and I’m so happy (not the right word) that you feel unshackled. Wow. Enjoy the feeling.

    Mark – When I was writing this, you kept coming to mind. Your writing about the Divine made me feel more courageous that I could do the same. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your a-ha. I love you.

    Matthew – (happy sigh) Wow. I’m so glad for you. Please know that you’re not really guilty, you’re just noticing your choices up to today. You’re human. We all are. It takes practice. 🙂 (hug)

    Sally – Yay! It’s so nice to see your smiling face here. Let me know how things are coming along, okay?
    .-= jennifer´s last blog ..Grape-scented delegation and dropping the ball =-.

  15. Jennifer – Oo! You could conceivably delegate anything above the 3rd thing, no? How cool would that be?! (hug)
    .-= jennifer´s last blog ..Grape-scented delegation and dropping the ball =-.

  16. 2406 days ago,
    sharon Roemmel said:

    I’ve been doing the placemat technique for years & find it very helpful.
    I’m wondering why you consider what your doing not manifesty. I love your new word.:)

  17. 2406 days ago,
    sharon Roemmel said:

    ps. I take it a step further. I have an energetic council I call on. Each member has a role. I feel more supported than ever.

  18. Wow, Jen – what a great post. I love that it combines the seriousness of both faith and workload stress with lightheartedness fun-ness (scented markers, for goodness sake!).

    Thanks for a manageable spin on something that didn’t totally work for me before.


  19. 2406 days ago,
    Yolanda said:

    Thank you Jen, this is great. I read about this but never tried it. Your post is inspiring me to write my delegation list this week. Scented markers sound like so much fun.

    I enjoy receiving your newsletters!

  20. 2406 days ago,
    Charlene said:

    I turn things over to God all the time in my mind, but I keep grabbing them back. Writing them down sounds like it could help a lot by reminding me that I already turned that situation over to God. Thank you so much for this inspiring idea.

  21. Thank you for such a comforting article. It made me tear up in relief.
    .-= Shayla´s last blog ..Country Mouse City Mouse =-.

  22. 2406 days ago,
    Diane said:

    Good post 🙂 I’m going to have to make a list…

  23. What an amazing filter. If it’s a 3:45am thought, it’s going in that column. And knowing that it will be handled in the most mysteriously sublime way. Tingly!

    What an expansive gift you’ve just shared. Thank you!
    .-= Tanya Geisler´s last blog ..Get it? Got it? Good. =-.

  24. Jen: This is brilliant. I love it that you showed us how it worked for you–so that it’s not just theory. Thanks for a great idea!

  25. Oh yes…so much is outside control-ability. Love the Abby retreat idea. We’ve done seminars in a similar retreat center and people’s creativity blossomed like flowers after a desert rain.

  26. 2406 days ago,
    Tami said:

    WOW! Wow, wow! I love your God list! That is so freaking awesome! We’ve heard the whole “let go and let God” thing (at least I have) to the point that it’s almost meaningless. Your “tactile” has given me my “visual”. =) That totally makes that so much more real and personal. Dare I say practical, even?

    Prayer is so many different things. It’s not just formal “Our Father” or “Dear God” times. It’s dancing, walking, painting, cleaning the house, playing the guitar, washing feet, organizing things – and writing to-do lists in watermelon marker. =) I think I’m gonna have to get me one of those “magic” markers. hehe!

    After wiping out all my contacts on my iPhone last night (and some only existed there) and worrying about other heavy stuff coming up, that totally made my day. Guess what things are going on His list first. =)

  27. Love it!!! Our pastor recently talked about all the YEARS that we waste worrying, since like you said, worrying doesn’t resolve anything, and if you think of all the time that you waste stressing yourself out, well, that’s just plain scary.
    Although I got a great visual from your writing (I love the smell markers … going to have to get some) I’d love to see a photo of the board 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing this…I’m starting my two columns right now!

  28. Hey, neat, someone else is doing the 3 “Most Important Things” (or whatever you call yours) too? Rock on, Jennifer L.! 🙂

    I was going to say something about how the 4th Thing and beyond are kinda-sorta-like being delegated, but Inspired Jen beat me to it. 🙂

    However, I’m not sure I’d like making a list of the worries and wannados though– that’s like giving them some of my precious attention. I’d rather just leave them vague and nebulous, or maybe if I really want to put them far away on the back burner to make sure I don’t forget them, I’ll add them to my very organized to do list (the one that never seems to help me do my daily stuff because it has too many things on it).

    So far, this system is working well for me. I get to acknowledge that there will always be a lot of things I don’t do because there isn’t enough time or because the thing is too vague or maybe the mental energy just isn’t there to handle it yet, but (this is the important part!) that it’s OKAY to brush those things aside, because I’m doing three other Important-with-a-capital-I things.
    .-= Qrystal´s last blog ..Resolving to Overcome My Stuckness =-.

  29. Hey, Jen — just wanted to make it clear that I didn’t think your idea was bad — I’m sorry if that was what came across to you. I simply meant that, as in any activity, the details of how I do it will be different from yours. Hope I didn’t offend you.

  30. 2406 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    Chris – Oh, gosh no! I’m not offended in the least. You got the very spirit of the thing and I’m so glad you pointed out that this is, indeed, a way of doing things. And I agree that there are many, many other ways that may work better for you. And thank goodness – the world would be boring if we were all cookie-cutouts. 🙂 You rock!

  31. 2406 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    Sharon – I really should interview you sometime! Your process sounds fascinating! At the moment, I’m not calling it manifestation because I know squat about Abraham. More importantly, the process is so new and tender to me, I don’t feel a need to label it yet. Stay tuned. 🙂

    Yay, Michelle!

    Yolanda – Fun is such a great motivator. If you can use it to create order, even better!

    Charlene – Indeed. There’s something really permanent about writing it. It’s over on the right under God and I can’t erase it!

    Shayla – Oh, how wonderful! Make space in you for all that delicious relief. Soak it in.

    Tanya – Oo! That’s a great point! I’m going to try that. I might even get up to write it so I don’t stay up trying to remember it! 🙂 Tingles!

    Alyson – Thank you! So nice to see you here!

    Robyn – Retreats rock. I’d love to know more about yours. I went to your website, and your artwork is a retreat in itself!

    Tami – Wow. I didn’t think of this as prayer, but I think you’re right. And I love all the other examples you give. The Divine is everywhere – all we have to do is stop and notice.

    Pia – Point taken. 🙂 Some of the names on the list at the moment would break confidentiality, but I’m thinking about doing one better and making a short video on how to do it. What do you think? (Love your pastors message, by the way – so true.)

    Qrystal – Awesome. I love how your system fits you. We all have a finite amount of time, focusing on what really matters (especially when it’s only a few things) is a huge gift to give yourself.

  32. God called. He’d like to know why he’s got so much to do now. It’s all your doing, Jen! Thanks a lot!

    I like this delegating to God thing. A lot. I’m going to put a few things on his to-do list.

    Brilliant inspiring post. I’m going to get some smelly markers.
    .-= Bridget Pilloud´s last blog ..Move Along- Nothing to See Here =-.

  33. 2406 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    (laughing) Bridget! Tell God to get off the phone and get cracking. 🙂

    Yes – get smelly markers, but only the good kind. Not the stinky kind. And enjoy the delegating process – let me know how it goes!

  34. Brilliant.

  35. […] from Inspired Home Office delegates to God or the Universe, whichever works. I love the […]

  36. Thanks for these two great ideas. I usually make a five column to-do list that promptly gets lost in the clutter on my desk. Posting it on the wall in color- great idea for visual people. And the God delegation is brilliant. I think I turn stuff over to God but then I like to micromanage.

  37. Hi Jen,

    I love the idea of turning over those tasks that seem overwhelming or cause stuckness to another source, be it God or Goddess or the Universe or whatever name works. That just really struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing.

  38. OK, I know I’m way behind in commenting, but who the heck cares. I am SO GRATEFUL I went back to read this juicy gem, it is EXACTLY what I needed right now. I am giving you an honorary PhD in “delivery of just-in-time inspiration.” One day I might even make you a diploma – in scented markers, no less.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  39. 2379 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    Amy – Yay. It’s so great to know we don’t have to do *everything* ourselves. : )

    Julica – I will happily frame your certificate – even if it’s only in my imagination. Keep handing it over – you don’t have to carry it all yourself. Hugs.

  40. […] to saner times if you can. Or put the troublesome thing on your God list (a technique I stole from Jen Hoffman and love love […]

  41. Ahhhh, Jen – A God List! Music to my ears! At the tender age of 68 (going hard on 69) I have finally started doing just that. I have a mental list – if I write it down I KNOW I will try to control it! – but doing it in my head; well, when God takes care of it, it just goes away – and so – out of site, out of mind!!! I sure wish I’d figured it out 20 some years ago! I’m a Pisces too – but a control freak about the oddest things…tho’ now..not so much. I can actually enjoy a bubble bath now instead of making it quick and get out to go ‘fix’ something!!

  42. 2140 days ago,
    Karen said:

    I LOVE this idea! It is fantastic! Thanks for linking to it through your newsletter – it’s really made me happy 🙂

  43. 2139 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    Yay, Lynne! Something about writing it in big scented glory is very soothing. Like, “Here ya go, God. There’s no way I can possibly change this, so it’s on you now.” Which, of course, it where it always is anyway. (I’m with ya — I still have to clean the tub before I’ll take a bubble bath.)

    Karen – You betcha! Glad you enjoyed it!

  44. 2136 days ago,
    Ruth Chancellor said:

    Hi Jen – I’m intrigued by this concept. Since the original post was many months ago I wonder if you’ve continued with this process. Do you still make both lists weekly? Have made any alterations? Any follow up about the whole concept?

  45. 2133 days ago,
    jennifer said:

    Hi Ruth!

    Yes, I’m still doing it (which says a lot for me). I’ve added it to my Monday morning ritual in which I write down the week’s to-dos and delegate to the divine all the stuff I can’t possibly handle. For example, I know a small boatload of people who are going through chemo/radiation at the moment, and I just put them all on the list, handing it over. It keeps me from worrying. As much, anyway. 🙂

    If it intrigues you, I encourage you to try it out and adapt it to something that works for you. Each person finds a way that’s unique to them — which I celebrate.

    Thanks for asking, Ruth!

  46. 2092 days ago,
    Helen hardy said:

    What a great idea, the God list that is. Lol

  47. Jennifer, this is BRILLIANT! And exactly what I need right now.

    I’m not going to divert my attention by going shopping for smelly textas, but I will use my gorgeous shimmery crayons to write up God’s to-do list!!


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