To-do lists

To-do lists

I tried it so many times. I tried different outlets: notebook, fancy notebook, application, phone notes, reminders, colour coding and post-it. I wondered if I was, in the end, a big procrastinator, although I do not pass for such. For a long time, I believed that I was just not organised enough. Well, people who know me will surely oppose this statement.

Not long ago, did I realise that I am just not into to-do lists. I simply cannot function effectively under the great authority of a to-do list. What a revelation! Acknowledging and accepting that I perform better under a different setting lifted the cloak of guilt, uneasiness and frustration that has been subtly following me for many years without realising its gradual but persistent effect on me.

My husband preserves a never-ending to-do list on his phone. A list that has been feeding and growing for years. Many friends and acquaintances carry the unbearable weight of this list, with little or close to nothing success. I have been listening to these people complaining about the vast amount of tasks pilling up and the slow pace of accomplishment. I have been observing them nurturing and hauling the burden of staying organised, whereas, in essence, staying discontent and guilty.

Today-list. Or week-list the most. This is what I have found to prove utterly efficient and entirely successful. I admit I cannot conform to a vague list of endless tasks which demand my full and eternal attention. I find it difficult to achieve any sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when faced with this long list. To-do lists trick us into believing that we can manage and conclude tasks, but they only feed the illusion of achievement. 

A today-list, on the other hand, satisfies all the elements of a SMART goal: it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. And provides immediate results of success and fulfilment. 

These goals have to be met today, cannot be postponed and, most importantly, boost our psychology. They are realistic and tangible. An email to send, a chore or errand to run, a gift purchase, a phone call you cannot put off, exercise, pluck your eyebrows, sit down and read your book, update your social media, grocery shopping etc. Goals that can be realistically managed within a day and that should occur without procrastination and excuses. 

Ideally, you should assign a time slot to each goal to avoid losing the sense of time and end up with the same results of an idealistic to-do list: guilt and regret. 

What distinguishes a to-do list from a today list?

to-do list can contain aims such as:

  • a journey to a foreign country, 
  • purchasing a non-urgent item, 
  • planning a summer holiday, 
  • taking some clothes to the seamstress, 
  • visiting a relative or friend, 
  • organising your balcony, 
  • declutter a room 
  • digital decluttering 
  • rearrange your bookcase etc

Evidently, these are all things that will be eventually fulfilled but are not urgent; postponing them will not generate stress and frustration. You can gradually draw some of the to-do list’s goals into your today list, bearing in mind that you need to meet within 24 hours. Whatever exists on your to-do list will not have a negative effect on you, for you are not required to complete it immediately. Focus on what is urgent, and prioritise.

I have found this method highly effective. Every day, in the evening, I set my goals for the next day and make a rough timetable of when to meet them. Every day can look precisely the same should there is no plan in place. Staying at home with my baby can easily distract me from my targets and lead to fruitless days without end. Maternity leave can also mean a lack of daily routine (yours, not the baby’s) and an absence of purpose and contentment. I know well that I will satisfy my baby’s needs, but what about mine? If there is no today list, my life will turn unproductive and eventually disappointing. 

Planning keeps me motivated and happy; this happiness derives from the daily accomplishment of my goals. Fulfilling the set tasks boosts my confidence and self-validation of my skills and determination. 

This method works well for me but will not work for everyone. One should follow whichever approach brings about desirable results and positively affects their life. Nevertheless, we should take the time to evaluate the mechanisms we adopt regardless of their popularity. If they don’t result in satisfaction and peace of mind, then we might want to try something new instead of blaming ourselves for our incapability to fulfil goals within an unrealistic period.

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