To Do or Not To Do

to doIn my purse is a piece of paper and on it are eight things to do. Why do people make “to do” lists anyhow? Does it somehow make me feel more important to have a list of things to do? Or is it just that my memory is so bad that I will not be able to remember what to do without a “to do” list?

Every time I’ve ever been to a time management class, they have always said to keep a “to do” list so you will be sure to accomplish everything that you need to do. Not only that, but you are supposed to prioritize it with the most important items to do at the top of the “to do” list so you do them first.

Maybe “to do” lists are helpful, but they are also a pain. Once something is on my “to do” list, I have to do it whether I want to do it or not. It becomes a nagging aggravation. There is something about having things written down that makes them more compelling. It is hard to rationalize something away when it is on a list of things to do.

A while back I had a “to do” list with about twenty items on it. I could never seem to get them all done. I hated that “to do” list. It became an obsession. Somehow once it was written on my “to do” list, I had to do it, but I couldn’t do anything unless it was on the “to do” list although I had too many other things to do.

Not only could I not get everything done, the “to do” list continued to get longer and longer. Doing one thing reminded me of two other things that I needed to do. I hated getting up in the morning as I had too many things to do. The “to do” list took over my life. I was a slave to a piece of paper. This didn’t seem like the way things should work. A “to do” list was suppose to help me manage my time, not use it all up.

Finally, I came up with a brilliant idea. I would put “finish the ‘to do’ list” on my “to do” list. As silly as it seems, it worked. I wanted to mark off that item more than any of the others, so I worked feverishly for several weekends to finish the “to do” list. Finally, I came to the end. Free at last! No more “to do” list.

I’ve avoid making a “to do” list ever since. If I forget to do something that I need to do, it will just have to wait until I remember to do it. Of course, there are a lot of things that never get done that way. It is conveniently easy to forget what you really don’t want to do, like clean dresser drawers or file away old bills. After a while, these kinds of tasks start to pile up. You know you have to do them eventually, but you always seem to have better things to do.

It finally came to the point again that I had to do it — make another “to do” list. I have promised myself that I will keep it at a manageable length this time and try not to start thinking of other things to do that I can put on it. Somehow, it actually is easier not to do things when they are on the “to do” list. I can always say that it is on my “to do” list, and I will do it later.

But, wait! I’ve just thought of something else that I forgot to put on my “to do” list for tomorrow. It’s something I really have to do. I will put it on the “to do” list. What else can I do? It is more important than any of the other things I have to do.

I have places to go and things to do. But there is one thing I can mark off my “to do” list now. I have just written a blog and it is no longer something that I need to do.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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8 Responses to To Do or Not To Do

  1. Authoress51 says:

    I used to write those. I would still get a feeling if accomplishment by completing at least one thing.


  2. I found that if I cheat and put some low lying fruit on the list that I can knock out quickly so there are a few items crossed off, I feel better. I agree that once you make a list it sits on your shoulder and nags you like an old shrew!


  3. It feels sooo good to cross something off that list! Great piece, love the punchline ending!


  4. For those of us suffering from chronic depression and anxiety crossing off tasks on a “to do” list gives us a sense of accomplishment which builds our emotional strengths in our world of despair. It may be as huge as settling a stressful legal problem or as simple as finally washing the dishes piled in the sink – they are all confidence builders and draw us out of immobilization.


    • Sheila Moss says:

      Thanks for explaining. Right now I have a mental block about calking around the shower. I don’t know what it is. It’s a simple task, but I keep procrastinating about it. After all, I really do need to take down Christmas decorations. Really.


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