Not failing at your to-do list

I am a long-time and experienced list maker. In case you are interested, I use Todoist to make lists - I’ve tried a bunch of apps (as well as old school methods such as paper and pencils, remembering really hard, or telling someone else to do it), but Todoist seems to be the most intuitive one that makes sense to my brain and works equally well as both a phone app and on the interwebs.

I have lists for everything - movies I need to watch, things I need to do this week, lists of lists I need to create etc. The ONLY disappointing thing is that I don’t do any of it. I suspect I am not alone in this. I think it’s because most of my lists look like this:

Make to-do list I DID DO IT. HA. Boom. Nailed it.
Eat breakfast I did do it. Sucked in I beat me at my own game. Granted it was probably a Starbucks bagel at my desk, but still. Great success. Even though it’s fucking cheating to put something on your list that I was GOING TO DO ANYWAY.
Find dentist Wtf does this mean? This is actually more than one step. I have to look up which dentists are covered by my insurance plan, then CALL one and make an appointment, somehow work out how to get out of work to go, think about how I can’t afford it, and inevitably cancel and reschedule and then start the whole process again. CBF. Too many steps, too overwhelming.
Write 5 articles for website Ha. Yeah. Right. As IF I can concentrate for that long. It’s a battle even writing one. This is just straight up setting me up for failure. Just the worst idea.
Do tax Not a priority. Anticipate this will take time. Leave as low priority until tax man calls. Probably add item to to-do list called “call back tax man”. Never do that either. Definitely SHOULD be a priority, definitely is not.
Dehumidifier Has been on list so long I forgot what it’s referring to. Do I need to BUY a dehumidifier? Do I need one? Do I OWE someone one? Confusing. 0/10 will not do.
Penny Random acquaintance’s name. Probably met at networking event. Probably agreed to go for a wine. Don’t want to + too much effort + would have to apologise + organise something + actually follow through.
Peter’s birthday I missed it. It’s too late. Give up now. Peter doesn’t care about me enough to notice I missed his damn birthday, I need to get over myself.
Book leave Definitely will not do this until I actually have to. Why do I even THINK I would do this before I actually have to? Not a priority, CBF.

As you can see, the key reasons I don’t do things relate to prioritization, feeling overwhelmed, and task complexity. I spent pretty much my whole life basically crossing off one thing a day and diligently transferring everything to the next day’s to do list, until recently, when I started doing TWO things which made my daily to-do lists achievable EVERY TIME*.

  1. Be honest with yourself and decide that there are some things you’re straight up not going to do. That’s OK, sometimes we drop the ball on stuff. It’s probably WAS a five minute task, such as “send Aunt Marg thank you card for birthday Adidas shower condiments”. But now two more birthdays have passed and you prob have some explaining to do, and that email would just be too long. Cross it off, it’s not worth the stress. Or maybe it’s a task that’s actually complex and requires thought, such as “win global crossfit competition”. In which case, cross(fit) it off, you maybs have no upper body strength. If you legit want to become a crossfit champion, you’re going to need to set aside time to THINK about this goal, and then take achievable steps to make it happen. Crossing things off that I didn’t actually do was a hard one for me because of my perfectionist tendencies, but it’s amazing how you IMMEDIATELY forget about that task and a weight is lifted from your mind. I cannot believe how long it took me to realise this was even an option.

  2. Make your to do list 3 items long only. Pick the 3 things that are stressing you out the most. Then pick ONE. Decide in your head that if you did that ONE thing, the day is already a success. If you get the other 2 done, that’s a bonus. I still have a billion to do lists on various topics etc, such as “Films to watch that you missed growing up because you were a pretentious little shit who only ever read books”. But the main thing is, for each DAY, I spend time thinking of the top 3 and then the top 1. This small change has made me feel a sense of achievement every day. Before, I would basically pick the easiest item on the list (feed cat), do that, and then sit around riddled with guilt, not doing anything at all. Oh, also, I normally try to do the main item for the day in the morning, before I get too sleepy from eating too much lunch, and before procrastination really sets in.

*Most of the every time.

Yeah. Congrats. 

Yeah. Congrats. 

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