The To-Do List Black hole

The To-Do List Black Hole

Ah the to-do list.  If I am honest I have a love-hate relationship with my to-do list. I love it and I struggle with falling into the To-Do List Black Hole.

Here are a few common statements I hear around the to-do list.

  • My to-do list is my bible.  
  • I can’t survive without my list.
  • I have a love hate relationship with my to-do list.
  • I feel chained to my to do list.
  • I am constantly checking it; I can’t imagine a day without my to-do list.
  • My to-do list makes helps me stay on top of our busy, busy lives.

The to-do list is a wonderful tool it provides guidance for our day.  It allows us to know what needs to be done.  Reminds us of our priorities and keeps us on track.

So, yes the to-do list is a wonderful amazing tool. Tool being the key word there.

It is when our to-do list becomes our bible, our salvation, our “I can’t survive without it” we have a problem.

This is what I call the To-Do list Black Hole.  On one hand it keeps us organized and on top of our busy, busy lives.  On the other hand it keeps us trapped in the busy. With our noses in the to-do list and our self esteem attached to how much of it we accomplish we miss out on our real lives. When our to-do list become starts controlling us and we live only by the to-do list we have fallen into the To-do List Black hole.

Recently a client said it so well,

“I am so on-top of everything, constantly checking things off my list yet I feel so clueless and detached from what is going on around me”

Can I get an Amen!!

Can you relate?

You value being thorough, responsible and on-top of things.  So you start at an early age crafting to-do lists.  These lists help you get things done. They make you feel in control.  You check things off the list and you feel good about yourself, you feel almost giddy with power.   Eventually as your life get busier and busier your to-do lists get longer and longer and you become more and more focused on the list and less and less focused on your actual life.  Before you know it you have lost you.  You have lost the ability to be spontaneous, to have a choice, to actively design your life rather than reacting to life via your to-do list.

When we are stuck in our to-do list we miss out on:

  • Playing with our kids in the yard. “I can’t take time I have to check dinner off the list”
  • Spontaneously taking a walk. Are you kidding? I have WAY too much to do” OR “Ok I’ll take a walk, that will give me a chance to go through my to-do list in my head”
  • Noticing our children’s laughter as we ride in the car. “I am not really paying attention to the kids, I am just trying to get us safely to the next thing on the list.
  • Having a dance party to our favorite tune. “No way, we are too busy to engage in dance parties–have you seen my kids schedule?”

So I can hear you saying, “Are you asking me to ditch the to-do list?”

No, I know there are many households that would fall apart without the to-do list. But I AM asking you to get real honest with yourself. And ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you controlling the to-do list or is it controlling you?
  2. Do you have any room for real spontaneity in your life?
  3. Are you ACTIVE in planning your life or are you just constantly REACTING to your life?

I admit, I have a problem, What can I do?

  • Slowly start adding spontaneity back into your life.
  • Spend a 15 min, 30 min or even an hour just dreaming about what your day would look like without the to-do list?
  • Take a good hard look at your to-do list is there anything on it that you can delete?  Are you engaging in activiites that drain you or exhaust you? Can you stop engaging in these activities?

I would love to hear from you:  How have you fallen into the black hole of the to-do list?  How do you keep yourself from being a victim of the black hole?