Let’s Talk about Lists


How Do You To Do?

Let’s talk lists. Most of us use lists of some kind in our daily lives: shopping lists, Christmas lists, chore lists, “honey do” lists, I could list all kinds of lists but what I want to talk about is our daily “to do” list. We all have our own ways of creating our to do list. Some of use an electronic application on our notebooks or I-Pads. Some use a calendar, a day planner or a Franklin Covey to organize what we plan on getting done each day. Some of us just jot them down on pieces of paper, lose them and forget they ever existed. No matter how we create our list there is one question that I have for you about your to do list. Does your to do list work for you or do you work for your to do list?



Do it Real Good

There is no doubt that using a to do list can be a wonderful tool to get things accomplished, keep our lives organized and to help us remember things. Using a to do list properly can be a very rewarding daily experience, however many people face problems when utilizing their to do list.

Common To Do List Problems

  • Shaken not Stirred – Keeping your lists separate, for example cleaning the oven, should be on a separate list than writing your memoirs. Double list it by making one list for home, one list for work and even another for dreams or ambitions. This will keep you organized and focused on the tasks at hand.
  • Put “Do It” on Your To Do List – If you find that you spend all of your waking hours doing things from your list and have no time for fun or fulfilling things, then put the fun and fulfilling things on your list. I asked a dear friend, who is a new Father, how he and his wife manage to find the time to stay “involved”. His surprising answer was “We put it on our to-do list so we have to do it!”
  • List Addiction – If the first thing you do in the morning is look at your list and you are constantly thinking about it, adding to it and experience extreme highs from crossing things off the list, you may have a problem. If you write things on the list just to cross them off again you do have a problem. Consider taking a day off from your list once in a while. You can do it – one day at a time.
  • The Unrealistic List – Have you had “become an Astronaut” on your list for the last five years? Cross that off and come down to earth.
  • The Big and Small List – If you have ambitious goals such as “become an Astronaut” or “improve sex life”, try listing “buy Tang” or “do Kegals”. Listing the steps that will get you there is a lot less intimidating and the Big things on your list can be replaced with easier Small tasks.



To Do: This!

Close your eyes and visualize your to do list. In your mind hold it in your hand and gaze upon it. How do you feel? Do you suddenly feel that you had to stop reading this article so that you could go get some more stuff done? That may indicate that you have an unhealthy relationship with your to do list and you are working for it rather than the other way around.


To Do is To Be

Does your to do list make you feel significant? Does staying busy doing tasks make you feel like you have had a full day and thus a full life? Just imagine for a moment that you do not have a to do list anymore. Poof – it’s gone forever. What would you do now? Does this feeling make you excited or does it cause you grave distress? Would it feel like your sense of identity has been stripped from you? If you could not tell people that you have been “busy” (aka working for your list) would you feel less important? Is it possible that you are absorbed in your list so that you do not have to face the realities of your life? This idea may sound sad but it may be keeping you from living a full and exciting life. Perhaps you don’t really want to spend time with your family. Maybe you don’t have anything else that you would rather do than chores or errands. You could be depressed and getting things done makes you feel better. You may have never taken the time to get to know yourself, therefore don’t really know what else to do. Getting things done is very important. Living your life to the fullest is more important. Taking time away from the list to discover yourself can give your life much more meaning than calling the plumber or paying the parking ticket. Of course it’s important to take care of the essentials in life and be responsible. But imagine finding the balance between tasks, chores and doing things that you love. Would you rather be remembered for being a great parent, friend and neighbor or for turning your library books in on time? Feeling important is important. According to Tony Robbins significance is a basic human need. Finding positive ways to feel significant can feel selfish and uncomfortable at first, however knowing who and what you are can give you more significance than one zillion errands. Instead of “to do” try “to be”.


Does your to do list keep you from participating in your own life?


Take a Break For Life

There is a time to burn the midnight oil and there is a time for you to drop the list and just live. It is very important to get things done and blowing things off is perfectly OK at times as well. Don’t feel bad about getting off track occasionally, especially if you are re-prioritizing to make room for something greater. My sister surprised me recently by calling and saying she was going to be in town, the next day! I easily dropped everything to spend time with her. We can also use our lists as excuses to put off leisurely things in our lives like watching a sunset, going to a movie or just hanging out. We can feel guilty or self-indulgent if we do the types of activities that are not result oriented. Our list may even stop us from family obligations or spending time with loved ones. You may turn down a tempting invitation to a new restaurant or cancel a class you have been looking forward to just to stay home to tackle your list. When having a tangible result supersedes quality time, rest or connection with others it’s good to evaluate your priorities or stop adding so much to your list. It’s good to be flexible so you do not miss out on wonderful things in life. I remember several Sundays when Smiley and I were so focused on getting our lists done that we turned down spending the day on our friend’s boat. We felt sad that we were missing out on fun and spending time with people that we really wanted to get to know better, but not bad enough to blow off our lists. The list ruled us and we were not going to waver. In hindsight I cannot remember what we accomplished, but I sure do know that we still have not been on our friend’s boat and we really hope that that boat has not sailed. Missing times with great people is something that I do not want to happen to me anymore because of my to do list.


Love Your List – Love Yourself

I have found some tactics for creating lists that I love and work for me. I start by organizing and making separate lists for work, home and dreams and I prioritize what I have to have done by day, week and month. I put stars by my non-negs (non negotiables) and use colored highlighters to break things up. Leaving off no-brainers like making dinner and walking Bongo help keep the list shorter (I am working on my cross off addiction). I am also making a point to add at least one enjoyable activity a day like drawing or swimming and make that a non-neg!

Forcing yourself to relax or have fun can be stressful, especially if you have a million things to do and not enough time allotted to do it. Give yourself permission to take the allotted time to do the activity. If you have given yourself 15 minutes for meditation, take the time and focus on it just like you would any other item on your list. There can be balance if you remember to look up from your list and look around at the world. The number one thing on your to do list every day should be “LOVE MYSELF”. I know you may think that’s silly, but as long as you cross off number one each day everything else that you do will be done from a state of love and well-being instead of from a hurried, frazzled state. Number one on my to do list each day (even though it’s a no-brainer so I don’t have to list it anymore) is my Morning Ritual which includes several activities that I do just for me.


“Have fun dammit!” ~ Mom




You Are the Boss

Crossing off everything on your list can give you a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I understand because I too can be trapped into working for my list. But it’s important to realize that your list is not a living, breathing being. YOU are the creator of the list and you can do whatever you want with it, up to and including crinkling it up and tossing it away! One time my list was so huge that it was like a heavy weight, similar to the feeling of being in debt. But unlike debt I had a choice. I did not have to answer to a bank or anyone, only to myself, so I decided to just throw the list away. I had faith that if something was that important I would remember it. The fresh start I gave myself was exactly what I needed to live a life with intention again. I took a short break from lists then decided to have a new outlook on the process so that I never felt burdened by my list again.



Take out your current to do list as is. Look it over. How many things on this list are chores and errands and how many things are self-loving, fun or fulfilling?



If your list was full of self-nurturing and inspiring tasks, good for you! Your challenge is to continue to fill your list with meaningful doings. If your list only consisted of chores, errands and unpleasant impedimenta, your challenge is to exchange one drab item for one self-loving item. An example of this would be taking a long bubble bath instead of washing your car.



Hey, why not put “subscribe to Pippy’s Live Big and Small Blog” on your to do list? This way you won’t miss a single post!

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