the never-ending to-do list

The never-ending to-do list

Earlier today, I read this article about how to be less busy. In the article, the author comments on her desire to complete all the items on her to-do list:

Since as long as I can remember, I had convinced myself that if I just grinded hard enough, I could just cross everything off my checklist.

This surprised me. Mainly because it’s different to how I view my to-do list. I don’t expect to ever finish everything on my to-do list. I assumed other people thought this way, but now I’m realising that perhaps this isn’t the case.

I view my to-do list as a list of things I can do to satisfy my goals and it’s okay that there are things always on there because I always have a goal that I’m pursuing. An empty to-do list would imply I have nothing to do. No ideas and nothing to execute on. But as long as I have a goal (which is all the time), I have something to do.

The author goes on to say:

The more things I worked on “crossing off,” increasingly more things would just pile on my list, especially as my company grew bigger. It started to become an endless cycle, and before I knew it, I was working on many weekends, and I started to have back pain that I had never experienced before.

To me, this highlights and important point – you need to be comfortable with letting things sit on your to-do list. It’s okay if there’s stuff always on there. Being productive isn’t about clearing your inbox or emptying your todo list. It’s about being effective and efficient with regard to your goals. If you’re constantly trying to cross things off and empty your to-do list, you’re likely to be disappointed.

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  • Productivity101

    I totally agree. A to-do list should be a list of all of the wonderful things you aspire to accomplish and get done. Sometimes, things should rise in importance and other times, they should drop off the list if they become unimportant. I use my list as a parking lot for all of my tasks and ideas so I don’t forget them and then each day, prioritize the top three to focus on for that day. I have found that three is just about the right number but there are days I get 5 or so done.

    • I love how you describe it as a “parking lot”. Great metaphor!

  • Such a great way to look at it. “An empty to-do list would imply I have nothing to do” … Yeah I don’t ever want to not have anything to do! Because going on vacation or doing something I enjoy would be on my to-do list as well!!

    • Haha, exactly! If you get through everything on your list, you’re probably aiming too low

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