Saturday, December 18, 2010

"To do" Lists

Some time in October I realized that I had an awful lot of "to do" lists. As I pondered why I had the propensity to constantly have the need to generate a list that keeps me busy all the time - it occurred to me that this need is a terrible habit that must be stopped. Having a running "to do" list means that you are perpetually busy. Is this a good thing? (No) and who is responsible? (No one but me. What a dummy.)

First realization, then much pondering, and (as I always do) there can be no pondering without a fomulated idea, and putting that idea into action. The decided upon action was to implement a "Just say No" campaign. So (hold your breath) I decided that I was going to chuck my "to do" list out of the window and try to live without one. At first this was very liberating, and relaxing. It was very odd. This relaxing inactivity state, “take it as it comes” attitude, “respond to the need as it arises” bearing was not really in my genes. I come from a long line of "busy babes". My mother is constantly "busy". Her mother was constantly "busy".  Her mother's mother was busy, and so on and so on... Centuries of very efficient and very busy women. (But I digress.) Once the luxury and enjoyment of my newfound mental state started to wear off, I started to struggle with my need to "be prepared" and to "use my time wisely" in anticipation of all that was to come.

(Damn this was hard.)

I vowed that I would not have a "to do" list (and I was sticking to it) but not writing it down (I'm a visual type of gal) meant that I had started keeping the list in my head. Keeping a mental list was just too much. Before my brain fried I tossed that "to do" list out. Finally I had reached a state of mind and being where I was just reactionary. Again liberating.

(But was it?)

Now the holidays were approaching and this was a major "to do" list time for everyone. Was I going to survive through November into December unscathed? Perhaps this no "to do " list thing was a bad idea? (Yup.) Boy, did I struggle. I know I don't have to inform you that I lost the struggle. Yet I did not struggle in vain. I have a "to do" list, but it is a more of a "if you want to list".

I found that not being constantly proactive and filling up my time with chores, that I had time to relax more and not worry about things. I also found that I gained some downtime, and the urge to fill it up with activity waned. It was not that I was unbalanced (I'm not that nuts) it was that a "to do” list that is constantly demanding of your energy and time is not worth it. I am not preaching that it is ok to be lazy. What I am preaching is that it is ok to focus on other things like leaving the shopping for another day and going for a walk with your significant other, or biking with the kids, or to go get coffee with a friend. If you are not doing these life activities with those you care about than the problem is not the "to do" list itself. The problem is that you have written the wrong things on your list.


  1. Prioritize your To-Do list. Set a due date for everything, as nothing gets done without a deadline. When an item stays on your list more than 30 days past the due date, dump it; it didn't need to be there.

    Too many To-Do's? Delegate. Nobody to whom you can delegate? Learn to say no.

    Years ago, I asked my Mother when all this work would end. She answered, "When you die."

  2. I love it! I'll check it off my list - oh sorry - I mean become my new New Year's resolution!! It's all about balance baby!

    Love, Julie