Think Small Instead of Writing To-Do Lists

I’ve been against “To-Do” lists for a long time.  In all the years I’ve known people who make them—and for all the years I once made them—I’ve never known this strategy to really help the  creator.  Instead, these lists create pressure and guilt in anyone who so much as glances at them.

In the past, I made the mistake of being convinced by certain clients’ insistence on the necessity of to-do lists.  I’ve even agreed to take a look at some.  And without exception, as I read, I could feel the pressure building within me, as in my head I begin to tick off all the chores—writing and otherwise—I myself needed to accomplish by the end of the day—or week, or month. It was as if each item was depositing itself within me, my insides becoming more and more stuffed, until I could barely breathe.

As well as creating undue pressure on people, these lists are, in fact, useless, if not completely unnecessary.  It’s not as if people make lists of chores in order not to forgetwhat they should be doing. They make these lists to goad themselves into completing chores they would remember need completing anyway. Chores they will not forget—cannot forget–but which they have, most likely, been putting off for quite some time.

I’ve been working with clients—to say nothing of two husbands—for long enough that I know goading and recriminating do nothing to motivate anybody to accomplish anything. So I suggest you throw away all your to-do lists and begin to think small.

Here’s how: The minute you begin obsessing—or even simply thinking—about all you have to accomplish the next day, take out a piece of paper, and write down the first chore or errand that comes to mind.  Then put that reminder in a prominent place, one where you’ll see it early the next morning. Now, go to bed and sleep, knowing you’ll accomplish a great deal tomorrow.  I’m sure you’ll feel much more relaxed. 

Now, as soon as you can the next day, complete the first chore or errand.  Once you’ve done this, cross this item out, and write a second chore or errand on your paper. Then, when you have time, complete this one, and cross it out.  After you’ve done this, jot down a third chore you want to complete.  And so on.

I think you’ll find this a much more congenial way to manage your workload and your time.  Instead of seeing a long list of what’s ahead of you that day, each time you cross off an item, you’ll view blank space—until you insert the next activity.  Imagine how much more relaxed and motivated you will feel.  In place of what you still haven’taccomplished, you will be creating a list of all that you havedone, a much more positive artifact in any language.  And at the same time, you’ll be practicing thinking small.

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