Quick thought today.
I have always thought I liked To-Do lists, that I needed To-Do lists. I have the worst short term memory (as proof, in the time it took me to get my computer and open up this page, I forgot what I had been planning on writing). I have a job where I really can’t forget anything. And combining the two, To-Do lists have always made me feel secure, like a little “extra brain” to help my actual brain in the memory-department it so miserably fails in.
The problem is that I also tend to go a little overboard… I’ll write out schedules for myself. I’ll put things like “eat lunch” or “get dressed.” I’ll re-write my To-Do list multiple times, because putting the list on a new post-it note apparently has some emotional significance for me I’ve yet to fully understand. I hate it when I have to transfer tasks from Monday’s list to Tuesday’s list, and I hate how the lists hang over my head all day long.
A few weeks ago, I realized that the To-Do lists were more stressful than they were helpful. I’m not saying I’m not a fan of lists and organization. But the stress they caused vs. the stress they were supposed to relieve… the scales were tipping in the wrong direction. So I decided to do a little experiment — I gave up the To-Do lists and decided to trust myself. I still have other ways of making sure my life stays in order. I don’t archive an e-mail until I’ve taken care of it. I don’t click on Facebook messages or read texts until I’m in a place to respond. I have an “in-progress” bin of papers at work that I look through daily. But the list telling myself to check my e-mail, respond to texts, or look at my in-progress bin? Gone.
Surprisingly, life has continued on. And its made me aware of a very important fact: I often feel like I’m playing catch up. The lists were always centered around trying to get on top of my life. I used to tell myself, “I just need one day to get stuff done, then I’ll feel better.” But the problem with always feeling like I needed to catch up was that I was spending every day trying to make up for the past. I realized that life has to be more than making a list of things to do, trying frantically to get those things done, and then feeling defeated because I couldn’t accomplish everything. And then starting the next day trying to make up for the shortcomings of yesterday.
To-Do lists may creep back into my life at some point (like I said, they’re helpful), but the words “catch up” have been permanently banned from my vocabulary. My life is more than wishing I had had more time yesterday!