No More To-Do Lists…?

I’m trying something new. It’s revolutionary. It’s terrifying. It’s exciting.

I’m actively not writing to do lists. 

This is part of my little changes lately in the name of self-care.  In order to understand how monumental a shift this is for me, you need to understand that my to do lists have reached the level of art form.  For background, I have this post about my overly-organized exterior,  I have this one about my goal-orientedness, I even have poetry about my to do lists.

My usual process is to do a mind-dump (Here’s what one of those looks like).  These are messy, mind-mappy brainstorms of everything that I need to do, remember, think about. Everything I think I should do. Everything I want to take care of.  Then, I start editing. I order and prioritize by deadline, by urgency, by level of importance.

This is very reasonable and logical.

It’s also possible that it’s not always necessary.  Further, it’s likely that that mind-dump is not helping me at all.

Last week, I realized that the concept of the mind-dump list was creating anxiety inside me. I needed to write it to ensure I wasn’t forgetting anything. But I knew that once I’d written it, even if I had distilled it down to 2 or 3 pressing tasks, the rest of the list would exist. Reminding me of all the things I have not done.

I realized that though my to do list plan managed to be very effective, it was an anxiety management tool, not an anxiety elimination or reduction  tool. I also noticed that it even sort of generates certain other forms of anxiety.  So, I decided to forgo it.

It’s an experiment. I might come back around to a more balanced approach of writing a post-it note sized list of things I don’t want to forget. But for now, it’s a weird new adventure. I don’t think I’ve lived without an active to do list since High school. (I’m not exaggerating.)

Trusting Myself to Get Stuff Done

Part of this is an exercise in self-trust.

I draw these lists out of my mind, regularly. I say that the lists are so I can “park” the thoughts and let them go from my conscious without fear that I’ll forget something.  I don’t think I really do that at all.

If I can draw forth a detailed schedule of everything happening between now and 30 days from now, I sure hope I’m capable of remembering to do the laundry or buy groceries for the week. (Note – I will still make grocery lists. That’s crazy talk.)

If I forget something, I will either be reminded by the need to have something done, or it will slide.

Facing Some Fears

When I first made this decision last week, I journalled through the resistance to the idea.  It generated more fear than I expected, and not just stuff about day-to-day to-do’s.

My biggest fear was that I’m going to forget to take baby steps toward my long-term goals. That I’m somehow going to let slide my dreams and ambitions.   I know that I’m the kind of person who ties too much self-worth to accomplishments and deeds.   So, this to do list thing is bigger than just a way of going with the flow a little better.

It might also open up new ways to define myself or value myself.

We shall see. It might just make me crazy. It might make me more relaxed.

Four Days In:

So far, the weekend has been harder than weekdays, because we cram so much in it’s sometimes hard to keep it all straight.  I itch to make lists, and I honestly try to work around the “no list” rule in strange ways. this isn’t a list, it’s a journal entry…

I also notice myself doing little quick and easy things right off the bat.   If I think “I should email…” instead of scribbling a note to email when I get home, I just fire off the email.   If I arrive at a neat blog topic idea, I open a blog draft and tap in a few words and maybe a link to save the concept for later.   I’m not sure whether this is better or worse than the listing. One one hand, it’s a single step – rather than the two of writing it down and then later doing it.  It also gets the doing done a lot more efficiently.   On the other hand, it feels like it might start to become a time management question. If I’m firing off a lot of random tasks instead of hunkering down and focusing on something larger, I can see it being an issue.

Again, we shall see.

No time limit on this experiment. Just going to discard what no longer serves me and fiddle with the idea til I find something that actually works.


3 thoughts on “No More To-Do Lists…?

  1. Holy cow! I can’t imagine not keeping a to-do list (though I’ve never kept lists with your flair). Until I write something down, I’m so anxious about forgetting the small details that it ruins my concentration. I forget things ALL THE TIME, though, so I feel like I can’t risk going without.

    I hear your reasons for doing away with your lists, though, and I think it’s a valid experiment.

    So good luck! I’m interested to read how it goes for you.

    • Thanks. It will be interesting. I’ve noticed a few hiccups. the weekend is way harder, and I’ve lost sight of some deadline things – a few last minute scrambles which I’m not entirely accustomed to.

      Plus, I’ve got a trip coming up and I’m not sure whether packing lists count 🙂

  2. Pingback: Revisiting To-Do-Listing: A Middle Ground | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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