I have a to-do list problem. It’s insidious and crushing. To-do lists have a habit of growing. Of sitting in the back of my mind feeling more and more urgent. Then when I’m relaxing in the house or reading out in the sunny back yard, a small part of me feels like I “should” be doing those tasks. It’s the “should” that’s such a black cloud over everything. Take for example wanting to make a scrapbook of vacations I’ve taken. I started it a while back and want to continue. I still want to do it. So, way back maybe 3 years ago, I put it on one of my to-do lists. It sat there. And as years went by I started to feel guilty and disappointed in myself because I made no progress on it. But wait! Am I sitting around longing to leaf through a scrapbook of vacations? No! It’s more the process of making it which would be fun. So why do I feel like there’s a deadline?
Let me describe my to-do list mess and what I’m doing to change it. In my purse is a day-planner. I write actual scheduled things that are happening in there. No big deal, that’s just being organized. Folded inside the front cover of the day-planner is a piece of paper with a to-do list on it. This used to track short term tasks but has become a stale list of items that I was going to do but got side-tracked. I threw that in the garbage.
In my book bag that I bring with me to work and back home is a note book. In it is a larger to-do list mostly tracking things I want or need to do soon, things in progress. I’ve trimmed that down to just things in progress. Much better.
I have a personal wiki hosted on one of my websites. In it are several pages of short-term and long-term goals and tasks. Rainy day project lists. Goals for this year. Home improvements to be done and web project ideas. Things to buy. Personal improvement tasks. And on and on. It’s madness. Today I consolidated all of these. Deleted a lot of them, and trimmed it all down to one page. Not of things to do, but rather ideas of things I’d like to do some day. Whether it’s tomorrow, this summer or when I’m 80. It doesn’t matter. The key here is that I removed the feeling of a ‘deadline’ that these lists used to have.
I use software to track web development projects that are pending and in progress. But those are tasks I only think about during my work hours. I removed any personal tasks from the software.
I’ve changed from drowing in to-do lists, goals, and tasks into have a streamlined process – an organized professional life and a free personal life. Free to create and do what I feel passionate about in the moment. So in summary, I now have:
- Day planner of things that are going to happen/booked/committed.
- Notebook of a few things in progress. Confirmation #s, files to download, etc.
- Software tracking client projects as projects and tasks.
- A wiki page listing ideas I’d like to pursue some day. No deadlines.
This is a very freeing change for me. Not totally goal free, but much freer than I was yesterday. I’m now free to focus on the only real goals I have which are more of a compass for my entire life:
- To have a happy, healthy family.
- To be content and joyful in my day-to-day activities.
- To take care of my home and slowly improve it.
- To pursue interesting projects in business and to have happy clients.
Now, isn’t that better?
(Special thanks to Leo and his blog post which inspired me.)