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16/05/2011 / melgardener

The curse of the To-Do List

A well-completed To-Do list is high up on my list of “things I admire”. As someone who is a chronic organiser, and who works in a deadline-driven industry, I have filled out my fair share of To-Do lists over the years.

I find To-Do lists very useful – I treat them as a much-needed “brain dump” where I can download all the must-do items in my head to a more reliable and referrable medium. If I find myself becoming frantic and heading into panic or chaos, the very act of writing a To-Do list is great therapy. (Also very useful when waking at 3am in a sweat because I’ve just remembered something vital I have to do. Once it’s added to the To-Do list, I can rest easy.)

But (and there really has to be a ‘but’) I’m increasingly finding my To-Do lists are becoming more disheartening than desirable, more functionless than functional.

Approaching a few deadlines recently, I decided it was time to take stock and write out a list of all the tasks I had To Do. I began with the obvious jobs but, as one idea led to another, and another, and another, I realised the list was fast getting out of hand. Faster than I could cross off items I had completed, new items sprang to mind which needed to be added. I was spending more time on writing the list itself, and no time actually doing the work I had listed.

Quite soon the list was longer than Carrie Bradshaw’s inventory of ‘shoe designers I love’ and I realised I was in serious trouble of never reaching the end of it.

So what do you do when a To-Do list becomes counterproductive? As it had never happened to me before, I didn’t really know where to start.

In desperation, I added “manage To-Do List” to my To-Do list but that didn’t help much. So I went back and re-read all the items on my To-Do list to see if I could amalgamate a few and therefore reduce the number of items. Still no help.

But, have no fear, dear reader…I am now free of the torment of my To-Do list.

It was, in the end, a simple process requiring no more than a match and a bin. Yes, I burnt it.

Mmmmm…now that’s therapy.

Are you a list maker or a list destroyer? Are you chronically organised or joyfully disorganised?


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