Friday Five: Why I’m Ditching My To-Do Lists

Photo Credit: Courtney Dirks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Courtney Dirks via Compfight cc

My life story is basically one extended to-do list.

Laundry, check.

Email, check.

Write more to-do lists, check.

But what am I really left with at the end of the day?

I’ll tell you what–a pile of wasted paper and crushed dreams of what I could have accomplished. I am so over to-do lists, and if these reasons sound familiar, maybe you should be too.

1. I have trouble distinguishing wants from needs. You may want a new pair of casual summer shoes–I need them. The same goes for the curtain shopping, screenplay writing, and countless other extra activities that find their way onto my many to-do lists. I get so overwhelmed that I need to take an hour or three to relax before I get started. That brings me gracefully to number 2.

2. I have a simple mind, and I get overwhelmed easily. Even if I culled my lists down to only the essential activities I’d be intimidated by the mere question of what I should do first. More list writing and inevitable bouts of ordering and numbering would ensue. By the time that was finished I’d need to take a break and then it would be lunch time. With this day ruined I’d have to wait until tomorrow to try again.

3. There’s always something else to do. Sometimes I have a good day. Somehow one item after another seems to earn a neat line, right through the guts. Then it happens. It always happens. Another  little agitator of a task seems to appear right below it, inciting me to violence. Blast! To-do lists make me a perpetual loser. There’s no winning. And I’m a sore loser.

4. I’m tired of organizing all of my to-do lists, and I can’t afford the paper. You know it’s bad when your to-do lists actually make it as an item on your to-do lists. On top of that I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to organization and I’m just not into handling my lists digitally–it ruins my creative process. With at least one new list a day complete with notes and doodles, I’ve generated quite the mess.

5.  Some people do, some people write about doing. Ever get that feeling of accomplishment after creating your to-do list? It’s dangerous. Sometimes I feel so great after making mine that I take the day off because future Amanda now has a guide to take care of everything. Usually about a week or so later I find the list and wonder if it’s important, but by then I already have a new one I’m working on.

So, there you have it–I’ve dumped my to-do lists. It’s over. I’m a free woman, and a doer (at least for today).

How do you stay productive?

Aamanda003.jpgmanda Cripps is a writer and marketing professional taking one day at a time in the NH Seacoast. You can follow her on Twitter @amandacripps

24 thoughts on “Friday Five: Why I’m Ditching My To-Do Lists

  1. Ahhh the lists! I must say I manage to live without them, but then today I forgot something government admin related which might come back to bite me. So it is a double edged sword. But it is a tough balancing act and I certainly do empathise!! Good luck with list-freedom.

    • Thanks Ashley! Ahhh! The inevitable slip will happen without a list, and it can be excruciating for sure! Sometimes I tell myself “if I didn’t remember it, it must not be that important.” Usually it’s a lie, but I’d still rather feel generally on top of things with the occasional slip than be owned by my lists!

  2. I would love to dump my to-do list but I have learned I get less overwhelmed because it holds me accountable for what I have to do. Often, when I don’t have a to do list I have everything bouncing around in my head and I’ll think I’m almost done for the day and next thing I know, small tasks are popping up that I forgot about. Getting it all written down helps me to think about it and put it all into perspective. I hate when I finish a list though with only a few things undone and never do them because I throw out the list and put them off because I already feel accomplished.

    • It looks like you lack some of my to-do list related deficiencies Mary–good for you! Sometimes I still need to write the occasional list of essential tasks but the key for me now is keeping anything that doesn’t have to be done that day off the list. I do love the accomplished feeling you get after crossing off a bunch of items; it’s not quite the same when you’re doing everything on the fly!

  3. I had to laugh. As I was reading this I was staring at my “to do list”. I started to laugh when I realized I had put things on the list that Had already been done and then I crossed them off. I guess you could say I needed to feel I was making SOME progress. 🙂

  4. This is perfect timing for me as I am in the process of writing a blog post about time management. I will admit I am a list type of person. In the corporate world, I lived with my Franklin Covey binder that pretty much tracked my every move. I find that I can accomplish more and stay on track when I have a list.

  5. I have spent much of my life without to do lists. I have taken the up at times to help build habits though. Once the habit is there I no longer need the list to remind myself to do it.

  6. I love my to-do lists. I don’t write them all the time–usually just once a week; kind of a Master List. This gives me a sense of direction too; plus I find it feels really good to check things off that list!

  7. Great post. I don’t keep “to do lists”, they would simply represent something else for me to do. Instead, I jump on the things that have to get done and get them accomplished. My husband laughs at me each year as I tackle the garden. I’m never in the same place for long, but when I stop, it looks great. Of course this approach means that the order things get done in isn’t always the best, but the stuff gets done. 🙂

  8. I completely understand your to-do list dump! I’ve developed an absolutely necessary trait for dealing with them: I get done what I can, cross that stuff off and don’t feel bad about the things I don’t get to. It helps me take the whole to-list thing easy so it doesn’t freak me out!

  9. What works for me is weeding out all the non-essential stuff and then sticking to no more than three tasks a day. If I’ve got more than three tasks a day that I truly consider mega-urgent then I’ve got fundamental problems with the way I’ve designed my life! ;o)

    • Haha! I like your style Kirsty! It’s so hard not to be too optimistic about the number of things one can achieve when writing the list–you’ve got a great system!

  10. Thanks for an entertaining post! I had to laugh – as a compulsive list maker I can see both sides and very often I make a list just to organise my thoughts on a project and then I completely ignore it! I use lists to create a plan for a play I might be writing or directing as a long term thing and that can be useful. But on day to day basis – I agree ditch the list! Good luck with a list-free existence…

    • You bring up a HUGE point Barbara–I do think a list is a great way to organize your thoughts. The key is being comfortable ignoring it after and not feeling guilty. I think you’re on to something though, maybe I’m not completely through with the pen and paper!

      • There’s a ‘good list – bad list’ sketch in here I’m sure! Sometimes I wish I could draw cartoons … Maybe the secret is to make the list work for you (bearing in mind we’re not walking computers – we adapt and mould ourselves to the changes in our lives on a daily basis) and not be a slave to it. You’re right – guilt is bad – no list should have that much power!

  11. I think I can relate to this as a native New Hampshirean who has relocated. Having a plan is great, but being flexible when curveballs are thrown at you is much more impressive!

    Thank you for sharing! Go Sox!!

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