Help or Hindrance: How Do To-Do Lists Affect You?

open to learningI’m really good at making to-do lists, not so great at completing all the items on them.

I feel powerful and organized when making the list; then manic as I try to complete everything in the time allotted; then frustrated and disappointed with myself when I don’t complete everything.

Do you create these lists too? They range from dinner party menus, to birthday party or product launch organization, to life goals.


I tried calling them action lists to inspire me more. I tried assigning priority to the items so I felt less guilty when I did not get everything done; or do complete the list but the quality was not up to my standards.

Even with all these mitigating practices, there’s still a big problem with these lists. My mind’s ability to create ideas will always exceed my (or my work team’s) ability, time, and budget to complete them.

One of the only things that really works to help me avoid the manic and guilt phases is to make my lists shorter, much shorter. Dreaming and planning are great tools for moving forward, except when they are a foundation for negativity.

Organizing the list and assigning priority still leaves the lower priority items on the list where they are a distraction–lessening my focus on the tasks important to me.

KC_OverTheHump_Masthead 230x200In a powerful workshop the leader wrote every idea and question that did not pertain to the current concept on a side board called the parking lot. Most of these parking-lot-items were handled by the end of the workshop, and it allowed us to focus on the concept immediately before us. In addition, it allowed us to settle into the flow of learning so we learned more quickly and thoroughly.

So off go the actions that are not essential or meaningful. I feel more relaxed just writing this down!

What are your practices for controlling your lists, rather than your lists controlling you? Are you ruthless in culling like I try to be? Do you let go of worrying about the actions that are not critical.
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