The Shrinking To Do List

It seems self-evident: If we want a simpler life, we need to put fewer things on our To Do list. However, this crazy thing called commonsense, isn’t so common.

I’m learning to simplify my list of daily expectations, one of the luxuries of being self-employed. I am becoming more honest about what I can get done in any given 24-hour period and am deliberately factoring in R & R.

And if, at the end of the day, there is a backlog, I’m learning to bump the work to the next day…or the day after that.

The things I must attack first are 1) those items of highest priority and 2) those with a specific deadline.

Although I don’t have to divert my attention every time something pops up, there are times I do have to alter course to fulfill a responsibility that wasn’t previously on my list.

I must also remember I can’t always give a project the priority someone else thinks it should have. In the case of my clients, I do my best to be obliging, but sometimes I have to stand my ground re: a reasonable time frame. (After all, it’s so much better to be done ahead of schedule than to be constantly making excuses for missing deadlines.)

Speaking of others…At least some of the people in our lives will have definite ideas about what we should or shouldn’t do, imposing their way of thinking on us. If we’re not careful, we can try to please everyone, and that just isn’t possible. (I’m not speaking about wise counsel or those with authority over us. We will always benefit from heeding the truth spoken in love, even if it makes us uncomfortable or resistant initially.)

And those nagging voices in our heads, those that don’t bear heeding? They could be the voices of others clambering for our attention or they could simply be our inner perfectionist. (Admit it, most of us have one.)

As we carefully balance these considerations, we can re-evaluate our list, see what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what might need to be added. (We must make additions only as needed and, when possible, cross off at least one other thing for each item we add.)

And just what are some of the practical outcomes of restricting the length of our To Do list?

We’ll have more time to spend with family and friends…and maybe even more time for ourselves to do something crazy, like sit for an hour and read a book for pleasure.

We just may gain a sense of peace, realizing there will always be more to do, and it’s okay not to be running on fast forward all the time.

It forces us to  prioritize in order to get things done that really do need our attention.

So, what things can you eliminate from your To Do list so you can breathe easier?

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5 thoughts on “The Shrinking To Do List

  1. Wise points indeed! I’m a “do” person (but a lazy one) and there’s so much to do, but it’s the relationships that matter long-term and they get pushed aside when our to-do lists are too long.

    One thing that mentally tires me is trying to keep up with the details on different lists, and I’ve started using Microsoft OneNote. It can do lists within lists within lists… that sounds like the opposite of what you’re talking about, but for my Twitter page, for example, I have a sub-page for each day and an extra page for “possibilities” so when I see something relevant like this post, I just pop it into the appropriate place and then when it’s time to schedule the day’s tweets, there’s all I need right there! And I think it’s going to make planning the next novel much easier because it’ll keep everything in one place.

  2. And another reason to pare down that To Do list…Sometimes in the busyness, we inadvertently hurt someone by not touching base with them personally. There are times we have to step off the fast track of bulk messaging to interact one-on-one.

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