To do: Ditch the to-do list


For nearly twenty years, I have been faithfully making to-do lists.  They have accompanied me in my pockets, backpacks, briefcases, pocketbooks, and wallets.  They have even been tucked into my bra.  They are detailed and scrupulously planned out.  I have often written two or three in a day – revising the numbers 1, 2, 3,… and so on to adjust to how my day is evolving.  Many of these lists, I am ashamed to admit, have numbers circled beside them.  These numbers are supposed to represent how much time I think that task is going to take.  I even schedule my free time in on these lists.  I remember lists that have listed knit (30,) or call a friend (25,) or even meditate (15.)  These lists have become a compulsion.  Some of them were even artistic – embedded in scrolls, vines, curly-cues and geometric designs rendered in multi-colored gel pen glory around the words that would command my day.  Oh yes, there was even color-coding – something akin to the Homeland Security’s color coded system of warnings.  Red meant you’d better be sure this gets done or you’re dead meat.  Orange was of utmost importance but could probably be put off if, and only if, an emergency arose.  Yellow was something that should definitely be attended to.  Any other color – ending in blue – was meant to highlight something that needed attention but I knew, along with those gel pens, that any item not highlighted in red, orange, or yellow, didn’t stand much of a chance at all of ever being accomplished.

And, here is my point.  Tweny years of lists – planned, colored, decorated, itemized, and timed – and only once in all those years did I ever, EVER, complete the list.  It happened just two weeks ago.  I was stunned.  Shortly after, a sense of deep satisfaction came over me.  I had done it.  I had completed every item on my to-do list.  Two hours later, I was annoyed and embarrassed.  I had actually spent twenty years – TWENTY YEARS! – paying attention to a stupid to-do list.  I had only succeeded in completing one.  By my calculations, I had written 7,300 lists (yes, there were days that I didn’t write one, but, remember, there were those days that I wrote two, three, and sometimes four.)  What a colossal waste of time.  If I had just gone about my business, I would have saved approximately 109,500 minutes of time – minutes I could have spent actually accomplishing those items on my lists.

So here it is.  My final to-do list.  This one only has one item on it.

TO DO LIST – June 1, 2012

1.  Stop making to-do lists. (5 minutes.)




3 responses »

  1. Oh, I love lists! I couldn’t function without them, I think. Have to admit that I’m a bit jealous, though, as it has been a looooong time since I have crossed everything off on one. For every one I cross off, I add two (or more). Still, though, they do give me a feeling of accomplishment and the delusion of feeling like I have some control. I have even taken to putting a little box next to each item so I can “X” it. What a dork, huh? *looks about*

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