To-Do Lists Make Me Shudder Inside

This is what I should be doing, I should be writing a list of all of the things that need to be done. I should then be prioritising that list based on some criteria, the most popular one being the Covery two-by-two criteria of urgency and importance.


I know this is what I should be doing, but it makes me shudder inside.

Yes, it’s a great way to organise my day. Yes, it’s a great way of focussing on the things that are important for that day, but it provokes an internal reaction that’s a bit like tasting something very-very bitter every time I try to get my lists together. There are certain rough surfaces that when I touch them give me the same feeling. It’s a shudder that starts in my fingers and works it’s way all the way up through my shoulders and down my back. Touching a to-do list is like touching one of those surfaces.

It never used to be this way, I used to be able to create a to-do list with the enthusiasm that it deserves. I would maintain it for a number of day, weeks even, but eventually it would fall into disrepair as I became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activities on my list still to-do. At some point I would realise that my efforts had fallen by the wayside and a cloud of disappointment in myself would descend.

All around me others would work their lists like heros, adding to and ticking off activities with a determination that just baffles me. They would celebrate the wins and be spurred on to even greater to-do exploits. They would revel in the act of organising, their to-do lists becoming things of beauty. I’ve tried, really I have, but I’m just not wired like that. I can’t recall ever regarding a to-do list as beautiful and I see each completed task is only one item out of the door as others are coming into the room which is hardly a triumph.

I suspect that my shudder is the result of the many failed attempts to make a formal to-do list work. It’s a learnt response to the repeated disappointments of being a to-do failure. I’ve tried many different to-do list regimes but each one has fallen by the wayside like a fad diet, they work for a while, but sooner-or-later it all falls apart.

Am I the only one who suffers from this affliction?

But, here’s the problem, not maintaining lists is exhausting. Keeping all of that information in my head tires me out. The most annoying part of not maintaining a list is that my brain reminds me of things at the least appropriate time. Not having a list means that whilst relaxing in the evening, just before bedtime, my brain will pick that moment to tell me about that email that I should have sent with those documents I should have read and completed. Not having a list results in early morning mental alerts whilst everyone else is still asleep, including the people I need to talk to n order to get the task done. Not having a list results in opportunities missed as deadlines pass and unnecessary mental panics

To list or not to list – therein lies the problem. Or, perhaps, it’s just me?

I’m currently trying out a different way of thinking about the problem, but that’s a post for another time.

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