Some time ago I told you of my wife’s habit to make to-do-lists. It is a nice way to stay organized and not forget what you wanted to do. In this practice, I can however always see the danger of it having a negative effect on your mind. Yes, a to-do-list can be the reason for you to put stress on yourself!
Everybody who has ever written such a list knows that there are more important and less important tasks on it. You can make such lists quite stylish in the computer with colours and flags, follow-up tags and more. Alternatively, you can make a full physical to-do-board with your tasks on differently coloured sticky notes. In any way, you normally end up taking care of the important tasks first, keeping the less important tasks for later.
Of these, some are easy and you enjoy doing them – whenever you have some extra time, they are quickly done. There are however those which you don’t really look forward to doing. Whenever you look at these, you frown and decide that there is something else that is more important. Or that you need a break now and should relax instead of doing it. You procrastinate, delay it and finally end up keeping them on your to-do list for a very long time, sometimes even years.
Once a task on your list has become a bit older, you forget how big the effort is that you actually have to put into completing it. You have your vague idea what needs to be done but with every time that you postpone it, it gains on difficulty and effort to actually do it.
Slowly, your to-do-list gets longer. With each fixed point that is added, you have a longer list of things to do. Things that have to be done. Things that you should do! There is always something, the list never ends!
You can imagine where I am going – it cannot be healthy for your mind to always have those tasks present! It doesn’t matter at what time but you will get the feeling that you can never actually complete your work. You never have free time because it is always only time in between your tasks!
I think it is obvious that this creates stress. It happens slowly and maybe on a level that you are not fully conscious of. You believe you can very well shut down your computer and then get rid of that list on your mind as well. Somehow however, it is there. The feeling that you haven’t done enough. That there is something else to do.
That is why I would suggest one thing for your to-do-list: make a time-plan along with it. Write down until when you have to do your tasks – and stick to it! If there are things that you ‘could’ do, make a sheet called ideas instead and write them down there. It will give you no pressure and you can pick it up when you really have time for it. Or throw the whole thing in the dustbin altogether and learn to keep your important tasks on you mind. Just don’t let it bring stress to your whole life!