To-do lists - let go & start anew or finish everything?
Updated: Feb 18
Writing to-do lists felt so mature in my late 20s. I remember the ecstatic feeling of being able to cross everything off my list and wrap the paper it was written on. Done! Since becoming a mum and then entrepreneur, I have not finished my to-do list, not once. There is a nagging feeling that it is never over and every January I was debating on whether to continue the list hoping that this year I might get to the end of it or should I start anew. I have a feeling it's a common challenge for mums. So here is my two pennies' worth.
As mums, we often load pressure onto ourselves for things to get done and get done well. The constant list of things-to-do can feel relentless, especially with the additional challenges of working with kids at home during the pandemic.
So the first suspect was the perfectionist in me. Children taught me pretty quickly that perfection is overrated. If you are household with small kids, you have a presentable lounge only for 30 min before the guests arrive, tidy kids bedrooms only when kiddos are asleep, walls that are not drawn on only where you protected it with your body. So I learnt to prioritise which things I do well, which things I do all right, and which things to ignore. It's hard for a recovering perfectionist. But I also think that in our world of endless information and ever-growing demands (e.g. homework), teaching our kids to learn to prioritise is a vital skill. But I still was not able to finish my to-do-lists.
Then I thought the efficiency was in play. I progressed from writing on the back of used envelopes and utility invoices to starting a to-do journal to then using an app with prioritisation tools and reminders that I kept snoozing. Now I use index cards that I keep in a gift box the colours of which bring me joy. My husband (an efficiency guru) introduced me to the GTD system which works well for me. Over the years, I have certainly upped my efficiency game, optimised and polished my processes. Even prioritising and being very efficient, I was not able to finish off my to-do lists.
The answer became clear when I reminded myself why I started writing to-do lists in the first place - not to forget about important stuff. But importance changes with time or with experience. I humanly don't have time and energy to finish off everything on my to-do list to the standard I desire. So I need to become the guardian of my list and commit only to things that are worthwhile.
Now every January I am starting anew. Letting go isn't easy, but knowing that things you commit to will bring you joy and fulfilment, makes saying 'no' to other stuff easy.
Are you sure what’s on your to-do list is still important? If it’s not it shouldn’t be there.