Much Ado About To-Do Lists

Much Ado About To-Do Lists

For decades now, I’ve been chasing my own personal Holy Grail: the ultimate time-and-stress-management-tool, a perfectly constructed and prioritized To-do list. I was convinced that if I could just learn to create beautifully balanced lists, carefully weighing each factor, considering all the possible ramifications of each decision, I would find that optimal formula that would make my life magically manageable. It was a beautiful dream, but I’ve come to realize I’ve been chasing rainbows all these years. The To-do list at its best is an illusion, a will-o-the-wisp, an exercise in serious crazy-making. And this is why:

  1. Alien (creature in Alien franchise)

    Not warm and fuzzy.

    To-do lists are not warm and fuzzy. Getting to cross something off the list is pretty much all the reward you’re going to get for completing a task no matter how onerous. You’re not going to get a hug or a pat on the back or even a simple “Atta girl” from your list. It doesn’t care. It’s just an idea with an agenda, a mirage, a deceiver. It’s only reason for existence is to make you feel inadequate.

  2. To-do lists are big and scary. I’m often so overwhelmed by the collective enormity of tasks I am responsible for, that I will spend my whole day purposely doing something that’s not on the list just to relieve list-induced stress. But you can’t escape the list once you’ve created it. It will hide in closets and under your bed, haunt your dreams, invade your every waking thought, crawl out of the TV at you like the creepy dead girl in The Ring until you finally give in and do something on the list. You hear that phone ringing? Don’t answer it. Just do the list.
  3. To-do lists are not fair. In my mind, I don’t get proper credit for completing a task, if it wasn’t on the list. It doesn’t matter that I finally cleaned the garage, if I didn’t write in on the list first and check it off after, I am not allowed to feel satisfied. (I didn’t make the rules. I just follow them. Remember the list is not your friend.)
  4. To-do lists are organic. They grow. They’re like kudzu of the brain. Kudzu in the deep South in the summer where the mad green creeper sucks what it needs right out of the daylight and heat and air, materializes up to 13 inches of new healthy vine an hour, and turns trees and abandoned buildings into big green haunts overnight. Try and hack that back and see if you don’t feel like a crazy woman with a machete fighting a losing battle. Point is, do-lists never die and I will never be done with mine. No matter what I do, by the time I am done, my list will grow more tasks.
  5. To-do lists spawn. Like frogs in a pond. One day the water’s clear and the next, there’s a swarm of little polliwogs already trying to sprout limbs. No matter how I’ve tried, there’s just no way that I can find to prioritize everything with just one list or even two lists. Lists proliferate and pretty soon you have a half dozen lists based on category or urgency. Perhaps this is because I am internally conflicted about the real purpose of my list(s). Is it to remember and prioritize tasks or to satisfy some compulsive need I have to create the illusion of order and control in my life? I suspect the latter and should probably give up do-listing immediately for the sake of my emotional and mental health.

So now that I know the dirty little secrets of To-do listing I should give it up. I know it will eat my time and devour my peace of mind. I should let it go. Free myself from the tyranny of prioritized task itemization. Let go of my yen for control and order. Life is chaotic and I am a feather in the wind. Unfortunately, I’m still a feather with a lot to do.

 

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213 Comments

  1. I totally love your point that to-do lists are organic! Brilliant–and so damn true. Also, great final sentence. Never ends, does it?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
  2. obsidianfactory

     /  March 6, 2012

    Love the xenomorph (alien) pic man — to do lists compared to that is such a cool thing 😉

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  3. To-do lists are not an assurance that you could actually do it. Haha

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    • Sadly, that’s true. Otherwise I’d probably like the whole process a lot better.

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      • I think if you are enough of an OCD, you might do the list just to strike it off your list !!

  4. Hilarious post and original name! Feel free to look at my coaching and poetry blog.

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  5. Love #5 – thanks for sharing:) Congrats on being FP!

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  6. Good writing! Well done! HF

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  7. Sarah D.

     /  March 6, 2012

    Yup, the thing about to-do lists is that you do eventually have to get to the point of doing them! I find them useful. During times of my life when I was very, very busy, I even had to put phone calls (including social ones) on my list or the calls just didn’t get made. Nowadays, it’s a lot easier, but I still rely on lists. Maybe it’s just that my memory is getting worse. : )

    Reply
    • Me too! I sometimes have a sub-section just for phones calls and often put my mom on it because I know I’ll get busy and forget. Sadly she’s used to it. (I’ve always been absent-minded. I take after my dad. She just loves that about us.) Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  8. I once wrote a comprehensive to-do list…and then left it on the roof of my car after loading groceries from a giant shopping trip.

    Of course, the groceries were on the list; removing the list from the roof of my car was not.

    And there went my very last to-do list. I figured it was a sign…

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    • What a great story! Thanks for sharing it and good for you for breaking the habit. I think I’m going to have to taper down first. Thanks for reading.

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  9. I feel the exact same way about to-do lists! I dream about what I have to do, and I try and do ANYTHING to keep my mind OFF my to-do list. Then I get that little shock of “oh right, I’m supposed to be DOING something” when my distraction fades and I inevitably remember the list again.

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    • Isn’t that a horrible feeling when you suddenly remember the list? I always have this instant of panic that I might have forgotten to do something really important from the list while I was distracted. Not fun. It feels a little better knowing I’m not the only one. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Kudzu . . . so true. In college I consistently made list after list to manage the stress of balancing so many classes with work. After one day’s time my list looked like a field of kudzu; random things scratched through, some re-written, things added, notes made . . .

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    • That’s a lot to juggle isn’t it? I worked six days a week and took 6 hours a semester for a couple of years and I had the same problem. My list for Sundays (my only day off) was sometimes very scary.

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  11. great commentary….i love lists…and actually find when i commit to a scrap of paper it gets done. if it rattles around in my brain it is only a loft intention. lists are not warm and fuzzy they are my kick in the ass. i’ve wrestled with the same thoughts but for me it’s gotta be on the list…so much so that i jotted my love of list down (http://wp.me/p1WMl7-6B )shameless but you might enjoy the opposite end of the spectrum..congratulations on being freshly pressed.

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  12. I was going to leave a comment, but it isn’t on my To-Do List. Oh shi–

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  13. Dang ~ you made me realize I’ve been ignoring my “to-do” list today!!!

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  14. Sometimes I feel so all alone with my lists. Thank you for sharing. I now recognize the spawning of my lists for what it is. I thought I was failing. Now I know it’s not me; it’s the inherent way of the list.
    I have now placed “Get rid of all these lists” on my main list.
    I feel that there is hope.
    Warm and fuzzy hope!
    Great post!

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  15. Aha, you’ve been Freshly Pressed! Congrats, my friend! This post deserves it.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kathy! Feeling kind of surprised and panicky. So many lovely comments to answer.
      T.

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      • Enjoy it! When I was FP-ed, more than a year ago now, I was giddy with excitement. You will get tons of comments. Just take it in and have fun!
        Hugs,
        Kathy

  16. lilbrigs

     /  March 6, 2012

    I love this. I wrote a somewhat similar post the other day about how I literally never get things done on time.

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  17. This was so good, such fun to read and all too true! Well said! 🙂

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  18. you hear that phone ringing? don’t answer it. it IS the list. lol!! great post! couldn’t agree more!

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  19. Madeline Lund

     /  March 6, 2012

    Nice rebellion against the tyranny of the list! Thanks!

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  20. Love your parenting tab! I have three boys and it seems most of the blogs I have come across are done by parents of young, sweet and still mostly non-verbal children. I started my site a week ago and I hope you have time to stop by. I want to create a space for people to read a short story while at the school drop off/pick up line or on the side of a practice field and smile or laugh because they can relate.

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  21. To Do lists are only useful if you can convert them into To Done lists. Otherwise you merely serve to give yourself an anxiety checklist of all the things you should be doing, but are instead listing.

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  22. My To Do List is now a never-ending notebook on Evernote…..make it stop !

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  23. “3. To-do lists are not fair.”
    Easily fooled: once you’re done with the garage, find the list, write it down . . . and cross it off. Done!

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    • I definitely write things down and immediately cross them off. I’m also guilty of scribbling something out and breaking it into unnecessarily small parts so I get the joy of marking more things off. So “math homework” becomes “problems 3-6,” “problems 7-10,” and “problems 11-15.” lol

      Reply
      • How funny! I do both of those things They were in the rough draft which I cut quite a bit and because I thought it was too long and made me sound like too much of a nut. I feel so much better now. Thank you both for sharing!

  24. Next to each item on my to-do list I draw out a Venn diagram. I like to weigh out the options to see what the consequences will be for completing or not completing said task.

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  25. Brava! Great post that perfectly captures the sense of overwhelm and despair and invasive omnipresence of to-do lists, however carefully constructed, with their constant spawning and morphing, creating the “one step forward, two steps back” effect. LOL as I see myself doing practically ANY menial, non-urgent household chore instead of rolling up my sleeves and having at the particularly aversive, time/labor/thought-intensive ordeals my list is full of!

    A post I wrote on this subject (http://fiddlerchick.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/living-by-the-lists/) includes one method of countering the lack of reward for completing tasks, and I’ve also found it helpful to understand the difference between a “task inventory” (the long list that totally blows your circuits when you look at it so you shut down and end up doing nothing) and a focused, realistic “to-do list for a given day or week”; as well as the difference between a “project” and its “thoughtfully deconstructed sub-components plotted on a timeline”.

    Thanks for the laugh and congrats on getting freshly pressed! Love the name of your blog too 🙂

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    • Thanks! I’ll definitely stop by your blog soon. Looking forward to reading more of your take on the subject.

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      • Thanks very much! I look forward to perusing more of your blog and reading future posts 🙂

  26. I am a self proclaimed to-do list addict. It is pathetic. This week, I realized I have habitually (and subconsciously) saved all of my to-do lists from this semester in a neat little stack that is easily accessible when I feel overwhelmed. “Look at all this stuff you did already,” says my brain.
    (Check out my blog post about to-do lists. (http://heidiisopinion8d4life.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/my-life-as-an-organization-addict/)

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    • Hi again, Heidi! I love the idea of your stack of lists – like a trophy for all you accomplished. funny stuff. I will definitely stop by your blog and read your post very soon.

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      • At least I don’t have them framed for all so see… yet. 😀

        I’m glad someone shares my appreciation of to-do list saving lol

      • Years ago, I used to keep mine in a spiral notebook, so all I had to do was flip back to see all I had accomplished. It’s always nice to know we’re not alone in our quirks, isn’t it?

      • Yes, yes it is indeed. 🙂

  27. I love the clever lust types…and being in the South…I especially loved the kudzu reference. I am a list maker and sadly I even have a list of the list I need to make.
    Peach State

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    • You may be in trouble when you make a list of lists. Hee. Thanks for sharing, Georgia. (My partner and I are originally from southern Mississippi. Any further and you’d be knee deep in the Gulf of Mexico.)

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  28. Ah, looks like you have an excuse for putting off any to-do lists for a while. You’ll be commenting and emptying out that inbox! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Enjoy it! Nice post. I, however, need to finally get back to my much-neglected to-do list that I just can’t live without.

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    • Good point! I love excuses. But now I’m trying to resist the temptation to make a special blog To-do list since I’m suddenly so busy here. Do-listing is also addictive. I should have covered that. Thanks for reading and for following!

      Reply
  29. maryfollowsthelamb

     /  March 6, 2012

    Not to worry. When your hormones start to decrease enough that you start to notice, you’ll forget all about making lists. And even if you do make them, you’ll forget where you put them. My solution? If I really need to remember something, I write it on my hand. LOL!

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    • Hee. Glad to hear I have so much to look forward to. I’m already pretty absent-minded so I may be in trouble. What if I forget to read my hand?

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  30. If you write a list about a to-do list maybe the double “list” will act like a double negative and cancel its powers and create a world free from the tyranny of having to get things done! List breakers unite!

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  31. Very good writing style. on a positive note, to do lists help keep you organized and more likely to accomplish goals you want in time IF you’re realistic when you write them.

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  32. thetrissgutza

     /  March 6, 2012

    Hah! This could not be more true…

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  33. As a die-hard fan of to-do lists, I must still admit that every word you’ve said is true.

    The question is, if being freshly pressed wasn’t on your to-do list, do you still get any satisfaction from it?

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  34. Red Toenails

     /  March 6, 2012

    I absolutely live by lists. But you’re right, I have had to train myself not to be disappointed when I don’t complete a whole list – it’s just not possible!!

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  35. My problem with to-do lists is that I make them and then lose them. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

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    • I used to lose them too. Then I started writing them on a legal pad I kept on a clipboard. And I never ever lost my clipboard. Until I did. Now I write them on my computer and so far haven’t lost it yet. Thanks for the congrats!

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  36. Good for you, all freshly pressed and all; look forward to a crazy few days! You write well; I’m a follower now!

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  37. Great post! I completely agree. I hope you are able to fly high and succeed (as that feather, of course!)

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  38. I just completed something off my to-do list, setting up my Time-Capsule and backing up my computer files, while in-between reading your post. I do feel a sigh of relief for finally doing something on my list that only took minutes, I gave in and called Apple for help. All the while I was thinking of other items I could now put on my list, like work on my blog and write the great American novel. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone in the world.

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    • All these wonderful comments have done the same for me. Good luck on that novel. I have half of one I started last year during NaNoWriMo. But I made the mistake of putting it on my list and I haven’t touched it since November.

      Reply
  39. I love this post! I am a compulsive to-do list maker. “I will spend my whole day purposely doing something that’s not on the list just to relieve list-induced stress.” = totally what I do too! It’s like, the second I put something on my to-do list, I lose all desire to do it, no matter what it is. The fact that it is now on my to-do list makes it a chore, and it no longer holds appeal. I bet I could even put “Make out with Johnny Depp” on my list and the idea would lose it’s appeal….

    Reply
    • Exactly! Even if it’s something I really want to do, once it’s on the list, I will avoid it like the plague. Though if I put have coffee with Captain Jack Sparrow on my list, I think I might feel differently. Don’t under-estimate the power of the best movie pirate ever!

      Reply
  40. It seems that you’ve illuminated my own love-hate relationship with to-do lists. Congratulations for being Freshly Pressed!

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  41. hpquarterlife

     /  March 6, 2012

    I totally get it. I actually wrote about the almighty to-do list on both of my blogs and how not finishing the list is making me feel like a bum. But as long as I get some writing done, I can somehow manage to sleep at night 🙂

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    • Two blogs! I’m impressed. I can barely manage one. My family is starting to feel neglected and my mom got onto me today for not calling enough. More power to you. Writing is a calling.

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  42. russelllindsey

     /  March 6, 2012

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde and commented:
    And I thought I was the only one!

    Reply
  43. ohzeitgeist

     /  March 6, 2012

    I’m a to-do lister, and I have to agree to all of these points, to some degree at least. I have found an app that will give you an Atta-girl, though. Astrid Task for iPhone/Android gives you little messages like “Good job!” when you mark something off. AND it comes with a cute pink octopus icon.

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  44. ontheothersideofsomeday

     /  March 6, 2012

    i once dated a girl in college and stopped by to drop off a physics book she had left at my apartment. she wasn’t home so her sorority sister let me leave the book in her room. a quick glance toward her computer and i found a sticky-note to-do list tacked to the edge against a back drop of iTunes and wikipedia. somewhere between ‘go to the gym’ and ‘music hall,’ ‘spend time with’ written in a different color pen and a heart next to my name. as flattered as i was to have my own color, i knew that to-do list was the end of that relationship

    great blog post! you’re so creative!

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  45. I also have a love-hate relationship with my To Do List(s)…I find all kinds of reasons to make lists. One time, I made a “Things that are lost in the house” list, like gift certificates, my favorite earrings, etc., with the intent to feel the joy of both finding th item, plus getting to cross it off the list. Then I actually lost the “lost” list….;)

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    • Ha ha. Great story. Don’t you love the way the universe throws these little twists at us and gives up the perfect ending for an ironic anecdote?

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      • Yes, always! Very humorous, the universe. I try hard not to control that which I have no control, else be caught in an endlessloop, destined to learn the same lessons over and and over again. 🙂

  46. To-do…no more to-do lists. They hinder creativity and nothing ever gets done because there’s always something better to do.

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  47. This past weekend I actually paid for a “House Cleaning List” app for my kindle fire. My lists were out of control. Making the actual lists myself has become overwhelming.

    Everytime I crossed something off the list I added 2 or 5 new things. I color coded them to help prioritize by urgency and to denote things I need my husband to do for me. That was for the “house list”.

    I have a dry erase board on my fridge where I started a “writing ideas” list. I stood there in front of the fridge for about 15 min like a woman possessed, writing random thoughts trying to clear my mind.

    Congrats on FP. Great read!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Madamfickle! I love that name. I have a dry erase board on my fridge too! But it’s for urgent reminders that I’m afraid I’ll forget when I avoid my master list. I hope the app works out for you. I still haven’t been able to quit or to keep my list under control. Ah well.

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  48. brainvomit40

     /  March 6, 2012

    So true! I got a good chuckle at the truths here about To-do lists. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to function without one. 🙂

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    • Hiya brainvomit40! Another fun name. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to function with or without one lately.

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  49. Do you think your view on lists are a reflection of the stress you feel in life? its not really the lists. I love to do lists. When i mark something off its a personal satisfaction. I don’t need anything from the paper.

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  50. Ha, they really are organic. But I personally can’t live without my to-do list. And for not getting credit for things that you do that aren’t on the list… well, let’s just say it’s a regular practice of mine to write something on a list (often after it’s done) just so I can cross it off. I need to recognition!

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  51. Reblogged this on What's For Dinner? and commented:
    This one is for my friend Lisa Dickerson

    Reply
  52. I find to-do lists only useful when you are under deadline and are at risk of losing yourself in one task while forgetting everything that needs to get done. Otherwise they get control of you as you say. Maybe adding reward items to the list, like have a cup of tea, might make the lists more bearable. It would certainly be more enjoyable to cross those off the list!
    Congratulations on being FP! I’m looking forward to looking around your blog.

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    • Thanks, MrsPeas! I agree. Rewards would be nice. I do that for my children all the time but we forget about ourselves, don’t we?

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  53. Frankly, writing a to do list will almost usually mean you’ll cut some corners doing the “most important things” first. Of course, later you realize you’re only subconsciously making excuses to keep from doing the things you really don’t wanna do. This is clearer than water when you’re a teenager.

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  54. 30x30x30user1

     /  March 6, 2012

    I love to-do-lists that go missing personally!!! Its a sign that its purpose and function is dispensable and we need to celebrate and embrace chaotic spontaneity! Cheers!

    Reply
  55. Know what you mean and yet still have to have my list. GTD by David Allen was a big help – at least in the getting it all down to clear up the creative part of my mind! Appreciate your perspective, been there, done that and still doing a lot of it!

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  56. Love your article….and I have an unhealthy addiction to to-do lists….they can be such a pain..but you have to admit that ticking things off is a pleasure indeed!:)

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  57. Oh my gosh how’d you get in my head?! I agree 1000% and now I will give you great kudos and a standing ovation for this list! Thanks for making me finally not feel like the only crazy one who finds lists are like a Scottish bog!

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  58. This is a little crazy cause I have 3 to-do apps on my Android tablet, and I was thinking that I need to always remember to do all these little things, so I was hunting for more brilliant to-do list apps when I realize I like to organize and make documentation, not babysitting poorly managed client databases, and trying to help overburden co-workers magically get everything done that is thrown at them.

    But I do want to make a to-do app that is like the gadgets on movies that give a big shiney notification with blueprints on how to get the task done, and the money you save by doing the task….and so on, an unrealistic to-do list, that in and of itself that would motivate…that would be a killer app….

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  59. At work I love to-do lists, mainly because sometimes work gets so busy that without that list to add to it can get out of control and things can get forgotten. Yes the presence of that list and the length it sometimes grows to can make me panic sometimes, but better than forgetting something and paying for it later.
    At home I have abandonned to-do lists (except for grocery shopping – you can only go so long forgetting TP before it becomes a HUGE issue haha). Because I am working full time and studying I have got this things from work called a ‘wall calendar’ which shows the whole year on it. I post it on my wall and put the important dates… friends wedding, final essay due etc. at least then I know all the game changers are covered 🙂

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  60. cris178

     /  March 6, 2012

    your blog looks really cool on the windows 8 wordpress app

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  61. I am a listmaker from way back. I even bought a book with blank spaces to fill in with lists on 100 topics. Love it. Sometimes I even make lists of the lists I want to make. Is this any stranger than feeling that lists are tyrannical? Think of the satisfaction that comes from making a list. You feel that you’re almost halfway to accomplishing whatever is on the list. One quarter of the way? OK, given a direction. And how about the shopping list you make and then forget to take it with you to the store. You remember everything on the list and experience the joy of realizing that you didn’t need the list. Ah, bliss.

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  62. i still make lists and it makes me sad when i don’t achieve them. it becomes a list of things that i haven’t and won’t do in the near future. but i do think that if you make a ‘to-do list’ it is psychologically bad because you are setting out the intent that you HAVE to do something.
    i think writing a list called something like your ‘dream list’ or something where there is no clear deadline where you feel that you must do something!
    but that is my take on to do lists and it seems to work for me.
    i make lists of lists. i think that i have OCD about lists.

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  63. I love it – and I must confess (from one list-maker to another) that I have even added something I’ve just done to a list, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off!

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  64. Loved the post! 🙂

    I have two types of ‘to do’ lists… ones that I write down that inspire me – like stuff to do for before we go on holiday (tons of cleaning, shopping, tidying type stuff as well packing lists that usually generate a shopping list all of their own…but that all add to the countdown excitement) and the ones I don’t always write down… my ‘ostrich with its head in the sand’ lists – the housekeeping / chores type ones – ‘order a skip, clean out the garage and house into the skip (well the bits that are just cluttering up the space and can’t go to charity shops), dusting, deep-cleaning (mopping all the floors, cleaning all the windows, bottoming out the kitchen, bathrooms etc etc)…

    There’s a third type as well – again not written down so if I mix the days or heavens forbid – skip one or two of the items the list I don’t feel guilty… This one has my repetitive down the week to do tasks – Monday – washing, Tuesday maybe ironing if I can face it, start on shopping lists, Wednesday – work on blog post, Thursday – food shopping, Friday – hoover the carpets and the bits I can see, change the bed… that kind of thing…

    Sounds like you’re disciplined enough…and haunted by the sound of it 🙂 by my ostrich type lists – I just think if I don’t write it down, I don’t HAVE to do it – well not right now – maybe when it bugs me badly enough, or I have guests coming, or the shame of the mess potentially being seen even by strangers is just too much…

    I think the only way I can stop them spawning is by keeping them in these 3 group types as well as the written / unwritten formats – I can get terribly obsessive compulsive with my lists (6 or 7 rewrites of a list are pretty standard, for example my Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any ‘special occasion’) dinner related lists – the menu, ingredients, what to do when to finish it all at once, and don’t get me started on my packing lists for holidays…. And as for ones to do with my job (when I’m working…I’m a Project Manager) now they REALLY rule me…categories, importance v urgency, colour coding, etc etc…

    Come to think of it, I think the differences between my home and my work lists really tell me that I rebel against that level of control, that order, in my home life 🙂

    J

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  65. But… I love to do lists..

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  66. I love to-do lists and organise my life by them. If it’s on the list it gets done; the satisfaction of that tick when complete is exhilarating. Maybe I like the organisation of them or the comfort of knowing I don’t have to think about them or worry I may forget some vital task which will bring my whole world crashing down around my feet. Perhaps it’s because I’m a man and, as we all know, can’t multi-task but I will hang onto my lists and hope that my funeral is organised in the correct sequence by someone making a to-do list then I’ll be content all will go well.

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  67. InnerDialect

     /  March 7, 2012

    Abs AGREE… NOT FAIR !!! :))))))))) loved this read… what a relief…

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  68. This is brilliant, I’m a sucker for to-do lists butcan guarantee I NEVER do what’s on them, and my lists seem to be highly organic…superb, congratulations on freshly pressed, great post deserves it!
    Also, I hope that ‘write blog post about lists’ wasn’t on your list – then your one step towards kicking your list back! Good luck kicking the habit, because I sure can’t…

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    • Thanks for the kind words! I have a To-do list just for the blog and yes, I have to admit, that “write to-do list post” was on it. I’m going to try to let go of the lists but I think I’ll have to taper off. If I go cold turkey, I’m pretty sure my life will fall apart.

      Reply
  69. A post which I can relate to so much….I’m the kind of person who write to-do list everyday with multiple colour codings and yeah.. putting a tick is the only and best thing about it ..They are the reason why my Diary get over very soon..:) Great post !

    Reply
  70. Great post. Your points about to-do lists illustrate a simple, honest, genuine and straightforward truth about them and the purposes they serve. Thank you for shedding light on the reality of to-do lists.

    Reply
  71. On number 3, I sometimes add a task already completed (like cleaning the garage) that wasn’t on the to do list just to make myself feel justified in having completed a task not necessarily on the to do list that still needed to get done!!!

    Reply
    • I do that with shopping lists – so I can say ‘but it was on the list…’ when it magically comes out of the bags when I unpack them LOL 🙂 To be fair, these days it’s because I forgot something that should really have been on there, rather than it being an ‘impulse / not quite necessary’ buy…

      Reply
  72. v1ct0r1a

     /  March 7, 2012

    I cheat on my To-Do lists. That is, I make other To-Do lists, even when I have started an original. To-Do lists aren’t nice? Neither am I. Die, To-Do List. Die!

    Reply
  73. When “find your previous list” is on your list, well then you’re probably looking at a very messy desk.
    no, not me, some other desk…

    Reply
  74. I totally agree with you. Yet i continue to make them. Not on paper any more but on my iphone, my nook, my laptop and occasionally on the kitchen counter. Am I seeking validation secretly? Lol!

    Reply
  75. thelittleacorn

     /  March 7, 2012

    I don’t like when people tell me what to do, only my to-do-list can tell me what to do. There’s so much truth here in this post. Love it! I especially love #3.

    Secret: Sometimes I add something to my to-do-list even after its completed, just so I can feel the joy of crossing it off.

    Reply
    • I do that too! Though I always feel like I’m cheating to add a completed task to the list, so it’s less than satisfying. As I read through the all the comments, I noticed that several other people have admitted doing the same thing. I love that. We’re not alone!

      Reply
  76. Gosh, I just have them so I don’t forget to do things.

    Reply
  77. What does it say about me that I love “to do” lists? Or is it the crossing things off part that I love?

    Wonderful post; congrats on FP – enjoy the ride .. whee!

    🙂 MJ

    Reply
  78. Eek, I’ve just got back into making to-do lists. Perhaps someone should invent an electronic to-do list system that says ‘good job!’ or ‘well done!’ when you cross off a task!

    I also cheat sometimes and add a task on my to-do list after I’ve already completed it 😉

    Reply
  79. TRUTH. My lists never get done and they just sit there as an annoying reminder of my laziness and intense procrastination…but why can’t I let them GOOOOO??

    Reply
  80. Great post! I am right there with you! I wrote a post called “Lists: who’s running this show?” because I felt like sometimes it’s in charge instead of me! You can check it out at http://twyste.com/2012/01/21/lists-whos-running-this-show/

    Reply
  81. I love to-do lists. I love to make them. To look at them. I derive more joy in making the list than doing anything on the list. The list itself is the reward. If I put the energy into chores that I do into my to-do lists, I would be half done with the chores by the time I finished making the finished, clean copy, of the list. That’s probably why I stopped making lists this past year. So I would actually do the work that needs to be done.

    Reply
  82. I’ve been pondering the idea of not keeping to do lists, but I’m scared that I will just wander though life and supermarkets aimlessly, not to mention that not having to-do lists might not make the boss very happy.

    Reply
  83. This is awesome! And also why I never make to do lists. I have mental to do lists and I get personal satisfaction for getting stuff done that were on the mental to do lists. Best part about mental to do lists is that it counts every time I do something because I never wrote it down in the first place. It just stresses me out more when I write down all the stuff I have to do! I’m not a visual person.

    Reply
  84. confessionsofanactress

     /  March 7, 2012

    I know what you mean. I have 8000 of these things. As a part-time Early Childhood Educator, I’ve taken a page from my kids and taken to giving myself stickers when I complete items. This helped immensely. For like a week. I’m thinking of renaming my lists “Write it down here to get it out of your brain and then never think about it ever again Lists.”

    Reply
    • I love that idea! I started making lists because I was afraid I would forget things but sometimes I write things down just so I can forget them (for a while, at least).

      Reply
  85. This is a fantastic post! You made me smile- I could relate so much to this, since I am a huge list maker. I totally agree that “To-Do” lists are not warm and fuzzy, and they can get overwhelming and seem to never end. It is good to control them and not let them control us (for our own peace of mind).

    Reply
  86. EduDad

     /  March 7, 2012

    Excellent list of lists.

    Reply
    • Thanks! I think you’re actually the first who has pointed out the whole list about lists thing. Bravo.

      Reply
      • EduDad

         /  March 7, 2012

        You’re welcome. I love posts like yours where there is more to it than just the words. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  87. The To-Do list is even scarier when you do it on a phone and it constantly beeps at you whenever you procrastinate. Beep. Beep. Beep. Those sound haunt my evening rests.

    Reply
  88. So funny, because it’s true! I find myself making lists, then adding things to it after I am finished with a project that didn’t make the list…what for…So I can give my self kudos for a job well done? It’s madness I tell you.
    Thank you for the well put together list about lists. Keep sharing, I’m learning as I go here!
    Patti

    Reply
  89. Good stuff. Absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I am going to put eliminating to-do-lists on my own to-do-list 😉

    Reply
  90. I’ve had the same to-do list for weeks… great post!

    Reply
  91. For a while now I changed the name of the list to a “Could-Do” not a TO-DO, or my Do-It-Tomorrow-List 😉

    I think it does help if you write tons of stuff on your list… even if it grows it is still a could-do-list. For me it takes the pressure off.

    Reply
  92. Amazing, accurate, highly sympathizable, enjoyable read. Thank you!

    Reply
  93. But without them, won’t we feel listless? (You’re allowed to shoot me for that, even if it’s not on your list.)

    Reply
  94. Interesting article, I’m actually a fan of to-do list. I make a weekly general to-do list, and each night before bed I make a specific one for the following day. Gives me that feeling of accomplishment and as long as I get all (or most) of my list done, I won’t feel bad for playing around for the rest of the day!

    Reply
  95. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! This was such a great read.

    Reply
  96. .jso.

     /  March 7, 2012

    Here’s an easy fix: whenever I do something that’s not on my to-do list, I just do it, add it, and then cross it off. Sometimes I even add stuff that I’d already done just for the pleasure of marking it ‘done.’ I have a pretty impressive to-do list, actually. 🙂

    Reply
  97. Your list about lists pretty much hits the nail on the head, I used to feel that way about the perfect wallet and handbag, if I could find one my life would fall into perfect order and I would never try to check out library books with my sam’s club card. I’ve taken franklin-covey and there’s much to be said, the sytems works if you are the linear type, I prefer Jennifer Louden’s Inner Organizer (http://jenniferlouden.com/shop_books/) in which among other things you list each week (in very small spaces) what you must do, what you could do AND what you are willing to let go of, the latter is the most valuable of all!

    Reply
  98. I’ve recently come across the idea of the done list, or the practice of writing things down as their done, so at the end of a productive day, you have a long list of accomplishments. I want to try that, but I don’t know where to keep a list of things I need to remember to do, the ones I don’t want to remember, but really need to get on the done list.

    Reply
  99. 1. Update my blog tonight
    2. Read some Freshly Pressed blogs tonight
    3. Leave replies on blogs that I could really to tonight
    4. Remind myself that I need to make a list for tomorrow–tonight
    Happy Pages,
    CricketMuse

    Reply
  100. i just finished my recent to-do list which had traveled from the bathroom mirror to the bathroom wall and to a bathroom drawer.
    LOVE this post!

    Reply
  101. I like this. I’ve tried serious to-do lists, but quickly found out that
    I spent a lot of time maintaining the to-do list instead of to-doing.

    Reply
  102. My to do list never stops.
    Maybe it’s a waste of time to do a to do list in the end?

    Reply
  103. Catherine

     /  March 8, 2012

    Feather with a lot to do?!?!? I love it.

    Reply
  104. Mariajose

     /  March 8, 2012

    I love making to do lists, but the worst part about one day’s to do list is that the last item is always a to do list for the next day.

    And then on top of that, you may have to add, remove or change some things on that list. It all really becomes time consuming. I mean think about it: what items do I need to do tomorrow, by when do I need to do all of these items, put the ones of highest priority at the very top, some of them tie in the priority area, can you combine some of these to get rid of them faster, can you do one thing while you already have something going, now you start getting rid of the top three items which took you half of the morning and now you have a schedule change out of nowhere, do you need to reorganize the to do list, are you going to have time to even do it all, oh god, it’s already time for bed and i’m still deciding.

    I used to live by these until it just kept piling up on me even though I have a lot of free time considering I have 2 full time jobs and school.

    Reply
    • What an excellent paragraph! I think you captured the mental process exactly. Bravo. Two full time jobs and school? How on earth do you manage that?

      Reply
      • Mariajose

         /  March 8, 2012

        Lack of sleep, haha. Would you believe I’ve never drank coffee or energy drinks either? haha, craziness. But yes, I work full time at a hospital and then take care of my nieces at home full time (they’re between 1 and a half and 3 years old so they’re a workload) and then I’m also a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant and I go to school part time. I just know I’m sleep deprived. It’ll pay off soon but to do lists took quite a chunk of my time, haha.

      • Wow! You’re amazing. Even when I was younger, I don’t think I ever could have juggled all that. I hope you get a good night’s sleep sometime this year. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  105. I thought your blog was great, especially the line about the girl in The Ring :).
    The lists really do grow like crazy. If i end up doing something significant that really should have been on the list, i write it down and cross it off anyway…it still feels good LOL!

    Reply
  106. Haha, funny!
    I’m addicted to crossing things off. Even if I’ve already done it, it still goes on the list for the mere satisfaction of that dark black line. Done. Now for a reward 🙂

    Reply
  107. Funny post! i can totally relate 🙂

    Reply
  108. Rashid

     /  March 8, 2012

    ))))))

    Reply
  109. “a crazy woman with a machete fighting a losing battle.” Love that.

    Reply
  110. I usually never get past “Make a to-do list.”

    Reply
  111. I’m sucker for lists! My favorite is the to-do list. Damn right about the satisfaction of crossing out the items. “Attagirl” sense of accomplishment. Heheh!

    Reply
    • I do like that part, but lately, I’m always sad, it seems, that I didn’t cross off more things. Thanks for writing!

      Reply
  112. For me a to do list is a necessary evil. They really help me although you are absolutely correct and congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Reply
  113. I’m masochistically addicted to to-do lists. I get a kick out of writing them but I fear and loathe their actual fulfilment in quite the same way as you! They haunt me with their stupid little whispers of how lazy and inadequate I am. And yet…I never learn. I keep writing them.

    Reply
    • Exactly! It is compulsive and masochistic. I’ve tried to stop, but this morning I gave in. I kept thinking, what if I forget my mother’s birthday next week? Or to email my father to tell him what my mother told me to tell him to buy for her birthday? Or to pick up my son’s prescription and some dogfood? My household might fall apart. Family members will be sad. Dogs will be hungry. The world might stop turning if we don’t write the lists. So I caved. And now I’m sad. Good to hear from another kindred spirit. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Reply
  114. parwatisingari

     /  March 9, 2012

    LOL

    Reply
  115. Enjoyed your post very much and had a good laugh. Yes, I agree to do lists can grow quite a bit, but I can’t resist my urge to have a list I can cross things off of and they help me keep on track to at least accomplish something.

    Reply
  116. To-do lists ARE evil, but hey at least you look good crossing stuff off your list on your cool iPad lol. Honestly, you couldn’t have said this better! Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
  117. dash-cohen

     /  March 10, 2012

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    LOL I understand your reasoning completely.

    Reply
  118. Hehe, this is an entertaining insight, especially because all you say is true! To-do lists DO spawn – I have lists about lists. But sadly I shall always make lists because if I didn’t then I’d forget far too many things. (Plus, making to-do lists is a good excuse to use pretty pens!)

    Reply
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