Stop trying to finish your to-do list

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Much as you might want to finish your to-do list, actually accomplishing that task is not a very good idea…..

By Ann Gomez

I hope you never complete your to-do list.

The reality is each of us will always have a list. We can cross items off, but new ones will pop up like zombies.

This doesn’t mean Armageddon — or the zombie apocalypse — is around the corner.

On the contrary, having a list means we are thriving and growing and engaged in so many rich aspects of life. A list means we always have fresh ideas and new opportunities to look forward to.

We thrive when we have more to do. We don’t thrive when we remain in the same spot.

Even so, you may find yourself worrying about tasks before their time — overthinking what’s to come.

If so, you are not alone. You’re likely aware of the power of mindfulness to mitigate the effects of worry. When we stay focused on the present, we are more engaged, more productive, and we think better. We are also calmer and healthier. So, we don’t want to be side-lined by fretting about a list.

In an earlier post, I shared the importance of building and keeping a Main Action Plan (MAP), as a centralized record of your tasks. Your MAP also allows you to release pending work and focus on what you want to get done now.

Your MAP is so much more than a pedantic list. Your MAP helps you zero in on this moment and make it awesome. Sure, you want to pace your list and lean into help where you can. An unrealistic to-do list doesn’t serve any of us. Thankfully, your MAP will prompt you to plan ahead, which is one of your superpowers.

You don’t want to begrudge your to-do list. Rather, you want to embrace it, and revel that you have so much to experience and contribute. Then, bolstered by the excitement of a dynamic future, bring your laser focus to the next task.

I recommend you adopt a “one task at a time” approach. Sure, it may have been ideal to get item #6 done by last Wednesday. But the fastest way to get to #6 is to clear items #1-5 first. Or you could reshuffle your MAP and move #6 up to #1.

When we accept that we will always have a to-do list, we shift our focus to ranking and pacing our tasks. We also release the unnecessary guilt and the unrealistic pressure to complete our list. Embracing our list ultimately makes it easier to focus on what’s most important now.

When you catch yourself looking too far ahead, use your MAP to bring your mind back to the present. And remind yourself that a long to-do list is something to celebrate. The goal has never been to complete your list. The key is to prioritize what’s on your list, so you can focus on what’s most important.

Let’s go back to what I hope for you, and for me as well, which is to wake up each day to a list stacked with inspiration and the promise of achieving all the amazing results we are destined to achieve.

For more information about setting up your own MAP, see Ann’s latest book, Workday Warrior: A Proven Path to Reclaiming Your Time, published by Dundurn Press, 2022.

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