I’ve got that love/hate thing with my to do list.
I love the list. It lets me feel organized (even if I’m not). The undone staring me in the face? Mmmm… not so much.
Historically I’ve sabotaged my productivity by the way I create and use my list. I put so many things on there that managing the list itself requires an embarrassing amount of time. I put things on it that there is no way won’t get done. Like “cook dinner”. What, am I going to forget? I might need to set a timer to remind me that it’s time to get started, but I’m not going to forget. Or things like “hang curtains”. Really? I notice the curtains every cussing day. I don’t hang them because a) I need the dude’s help and b) drilling in cement makes the sort of mess I never want to clean up. The truth is, I don’t “forget” to hang the curtains. I see them every day. I just choose not to bother with it. Which means it’s a ridiculous use of my to do list space.
Then a few years ago I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and discovered soooo many other ways my to do list was messed up. Like the whole “actionable” thing. Allen points out that so often we put things on our lists that aren’t actionable. Things like “Dude’s birthday party”, or “car maintenance” or “garden”. Those things are categories. But what is it that needs to be done exactly? As he explained why such practices are a problem and what to do instead, the lightbulbs started going off. I was a major transgressor.
How did these things never occur to me before?
Which is exactly how I felt the other day when the universe dropped this one on me:
Rather than being a list of necessary tasks,
my “to do” was a list of perfection-achieving tasks.
It had stuff on it – lots of stuff – that didn’t really need to be done. Things like “get a lamp for the living room table.” When, really, if we move out of this house and there’s no lamp, it won’t matter a bit. Except that we’ll have less to move.
Or something like “organize the office supplies.” I realize many people may actually need to organize their office supplies so they can find things or for their sanity. But we don’t. Ours are orderly, and we can find what we’re looking for. It’s not perfect, but it’s functional. And it’s not bothering anyone.
And taking something that isn’t bothering anyone from “functional” to “perfect” is not necessary.
But these things were all over my to do list. Rather than being a “hey, here’s a list of things that will move your life forward in ways that matter to you”, my list was a, “hey, here’s a list of all the things you haven’t done, to remind you of all they ways you’re not perfect.”
I don’t need help remembering that, thanks.
The only thing having those items on my to do list accomplished was to remind me of all the ideas I have that I haven’t acted on.
And I have lots of ideas. Of course, when things ARE acted on I delete them from the list. How depressing! To only be reminded of the things you’ve never acted on when there are so many things you have!
So I ruthlessly deleted all the “countdown to perfection” items on my to do list. (It’s not like I can’t add them back if I need to.)
And good riddance! With all that junk removed, it’s so much easier to focus on things that will make an impact on my life now, rather than getting distracted by the superfluous. And it’s so much less depressing!
What about you? Is your to do list flawed?