The Dark Side of To-Do Lists

The other day I was cleaning off my desk and came across a to-do list that was about three weeks old. After scanning the list, I had an epiphany: none of that stuff mattered any more. This wasn't because I'd completed every task--there’s some stuff on there that I still haven’t done--rather it was because that stuff actually didn’t matter.

At one time, the items on that list mattered so much that I had to write them down to remember them. They weighed on my mind. I even obsessed about getting them done when I wasn’t looking at the list.

Ultimately, the things that needed to be done got done, and the things I thought were important faded into obscurity.

I had wasted so much energy creating this list as well as thinking and worrying about it. This was not my only to-do list, either. I had tons of them, each bringing their own set of anxiety and minutia, which dragged me down.

For a long time, my life felt like a never-ending to-do list with more and more to get done, yet achieving no real sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. 

I'd become so involved in doing the stuff of life that I forgot about life itself.

In that moment of clarity, when I saw that old to-do list, I realized that none of it was important to my being at peace, feeling connected, or accomplishing my purpose in life.

It was all just stuff crammed into my day to distract me from what really mattered: being true to myself.

That was scary because it meant taking risks I wouldn’t ordinarily take. If I was busy completing my to do list then I wouldn’t have time to take risks. Problem solved! Or was it?

Don’t get me wrong: To-do lists serve a function in helping us remember things that need to happen. But when they become the focal point of our existence, then we've crossed over to the dark side.

Try either shortening your to-do list or doing away with it for a few weeks. 

I discovered that things still get done, but there is significantly less stress involved—and there’s enough time to be me.

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