The Problem with To-Do Lists

As an individual who appreciates the logic organization, prioritization, and task-orientation . . . I like lists. I think I probably have at least five blog posts that contain actual to-do lists and probably another five that contain miscellaneous lists. There are grocery lists posted on my fridge, check-off sheets on my desk at work, and a list of how many NCLEX practice questions I’ve done per day in my planner.

This morning, I do fully plan to create another To-Do list – this time limited to things I want to accomplish before work. I also feel obligated to note; however, that just last night I was thinking about the potential limitations and pit-falls of making To-Do lists.

It’s very easy to become somewhat emotionally invested in a To-Do list. The act of creating the list requires some forethought and some ambition. Checking off tasks causes little chemical storms of endorphins to release and actually finishing all of the items on a list can generate a great feeling of success. That said . . . failing to check off all the tasks within the pre-determined time-frame of the list can lead to feelings of failure, nagging guilt, and frustration. Additionally, one could be so focused on completing the tasks on the list that it hinders once from taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities to accomplish other necessary things. Or, as it’s been suggested by numerous studies, the act of writing down the tasks creates a false sense of security regarding their completion and they never actually get done.

So many variables! What’s a person to do? (No pun intended.)

Well, there is hope. There are ways to make effective daily To-Do lists. My method is to limit my To-Do lists to ten items or less and to include a mix of the very-doable and the fairly-ambitious. I also create lists for short time-frames. Weekends are the most time I allow to complete a To-Do list and most of mine are meant to be completed in two hours. Also, instead of looking at them as concrete, I view them as guides. While I would love to mark off every item, I can also acknowledge that there are only so many hours in a day.

All that being the case . . . here’s my To-Do list for this morning! I leave for work in about an hour and fifteen minutes, so we’ll see how far I get along on things.

  • Do the dishes from last night.
  • Make the bed and tidy the bedroom.
  • Pack lunch and drinks.
  • Have breakfast – including fruit.
  • Download new NCLEX questions.

Fairly simple, this morning. I’m feeling very sleepy and woke up when the alarm went off absolutely convinced it was Sunday. I was groggily angry that my other forgot to turn them off until I rolled over and suddenly remembered that it’s only Tuesday.

Here’s to hoping that today is an early day at work!

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