The downside of being a serial to-do lister

I love a to-do list. I love to-do lists more than life itself. And apart from when I’m on holiday, I don’t think I’ve got through a single day in the last 2 years without working from a to-do list. I am a super organised person and I thrive off of it; the thought of waking up and just going about your day terrifies me. What if I forget something? What if I’m not getting my priorities straight? I am your straight up, stereotypical Type A personality and whilst that’s great and all and I get a shit load done on a daily basis it definitely has it’s downsides. To-do lists are amazing but recently, I’ve been noticing downsides.

I always put things for me on my to-do lists. Catch up on YouTuber’s I love, read some of my book, walk the dog etc. to remind myself that I need to make some time to chill throughout the day and do some nice, relaxing things that wind me down otherwise chances are I’m going to be on frantic work-mode and highly strung all day long. I work from home and for myself so my income, my progression, my everything depends on me and I don’t have the luxury of “taking it easy” every once in a while.

And whilst putting things for me on my to-do list is all very well and good, lately, I’ve been noticing a change. I recently bought some art supplies as when I was in school, I loved art . I loved drawing and painting and I really want to get back into it again. I bought a sketchbook, coloured pencils, paint brushes and watercolours and I’ve made a start on building up my first sketch book. And it’s great. I love it. I don’t get an awful lot of time to do it though so…. I’ve been adding it to my to-do list. “Do some art” or “do some drawing“, something like that.

However, ever single time it’s been on my to-so list, I’ve never done it. Never. But when it’s not been, I’ve just picked up my book because I fancied doodling for half an hour or so and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m unintentionally turning things I love, things that should be enjoyable, things that should be hobbies and “downtime“, into chores. Into work. Into something I’m forcing myself to do not because I want to… But because it’s on that God damn to-do list.

Now, I’m well aware that this needs to change. That I need to start authentically enjoying myself again not forcefully enjoying myself because just it’s on a list. And I really would love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a serial to-do lister like me or do you just go with the flow of each day? Have you ever found yourself in a similar position? Do you have any tips? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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61 thoughts on “The downside of being a serial to-do lister

  1. I was a to-do list person for many years, and I noticed the list kept getting bigger and ever more like a stick to beat myself with. So I started using diaries instead, planning when things are going to happen, and making sure the plan for any given day leaves me time to do whatever seems like a good idea afterwards – reading, crafting, music etc. If I can’t fit everything in I thought I could, I shift something to a new date. i seldom overload now, I finish each working stint with a tick list and the to-do all done, I beat myself up less and i get more me-time.

  2. I’ve always loved to do list but yeah, I find it impossible to have any downtime because having it on my to do list feels like cheating and if its not on the to do list then I can’t do it. It’s hard to find balance.

  3. Oh gosh I couldn’t live without my to-do lists … I even have ‘write tomorrow’s to-do list’ at the end of each days!

    I’m in a similar situation whereby I work from home and for myself and I’ve found that if I’m not at my desk, I feel like I’m failing my clients and squandering ‘earning’ time. That said, I prioritise my to-do list, giving myself only five things that HAVE to be done, five things that NEED to be done but can wait till tomorrow if necessary, then other things that can wait for a day or two but are on there to remind me or to fit in between the ‘bigger’ tasks. I try and put a time limit on each task – impossible sometimes but it does help to try and stick to it and having the radio (Smooth FM for me!) on in the background helps me monitor the time without clock watching.

    I think limiting the entries on my lists has helped me to make sure I get some me time – without scheduling it in.

    • That’s a good way to ensure your getting “me” time without it being “forced me time” if that makes sense? I need to work on that SO badly! Even things that aren’t work, feel like work because they’re on that goddamn list! I also need to try and figure out how to stop this “i need to complete everything on the list today otherwise I’ll die” mentality too. To me, everything is important and everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW. It’s driving me mad 😂😂😂

      • I think a lot of it for me is the fact I work for myself and the opportunity to keep working is always there. There’s no leaving the office at five, there’s no one else to take responsibility and that leads to the need to do it all at once.

        Another trick … don’t use an A4 page … use A5 and only one column that way you can’t have a massive list 📝✒💞

  4. I’m notorious for turning to do lists into work themselves. I’ll spend ages thinking up everything I need to do this week and making it pretty, putting time schedules together… Then it’s an hour and half later and I’ve lost motivation 🙈 Also like you I never read when I write READ on my list, at least we’re not alone xx

    • Haha oh no! To be honest, I don’t spend time making my to-do lists look pretty as I write them on my phone. My problem is is that I want to add as much as possible and work my arse to the ground the next day!

  5. I love making a to-do list and find myself completely lost without one, I’m super goal oriented so “finish the list by 3pm” is a good one to get me going in the morning. I can completely understand where you are coming from with this, I have had “do calligraphy” on my list for weeks and never did it but when I took it off I started wanting to do it more. Similarly with exercise, I love exercising but never did it when it was on my list. Now, I use it as a break from what is on the list and enjoy it much more! This is a good thing to bring to light for super to-do listers like us!

    • Yes! Exactly! You totally get it. I’m also one for “must complete by x time”, I don’t usually write it out but I always have a time in mind. It makes me feel SO good when I’ve completed most of my work for the day by like 1 in the afternoon! But then, I tend to add MORE to my list afterwards haha! And yes, that’s exactly what I meant and that was exactly how I was with drawing / art. Same with exercise. I hate it MORE if I put it on a freaking list haha!

  6. I bought myself a bullet journal to help with my blogging yesterday and I have found it super useful having everything written down, rather than making a mental note and then forgetting it the next day. I even put things like ‘wash clothes’ and ‘sort bills’ in my weekly list of things to do, just little reminders. At the moment I am constantly working on it and writing new pages for things to fill in but I don’t want to become obsessed. It is working for me at the moment but I hope, like yourself, that I don’t over-do it.
    Great read,
    Lois x
    http://www.lifeasloismay.wordpress.com

    • Yes, PLEASE keep an eye on yourself and step back if you find yourself over-doing it! I’d always recommend to-do lists but when you get stuck in this mindset where you literally cannot function without one then that’s not cool! I also put basic things like “do washing” on mine! xxx

  7. Gosh I know the feeling all too well! I think it’s just a thing where we think we’ve accomplished a task because we’ve written it down… my only advice is to reserve your to-do list for actual work things, so you can enjoy the fun stuff!

  8. I do love a good to do list especially if I need to be productive but I’m pretty good at goong with the flow. Especially when travelling there’s not as much that needs to go on a to do list

  9. I tend to write to-do-lists but I never stick to them because something else seems to come up 😦 with 2 kids life can be slightly hectic and most of the time I just go with the flow, think I need to bring some sort of structure in my life haha

    Heather x // http://www.xhighlandbeauty.co.uk

  10. I love to-do lists too, but I try to only use them when I’m very busy and I know there are several things I need to get done. Otherwise, I try to let myself go with the flow so that I get some spontaneous fun and relaxation. 😊

    Lyndsay
    http://www.dkhamiltonauthor.com

  11. I’m a list person but working hard to reduce it to just five things. I’m trying to plan ahead a little more in my bullet journal so it doesn’t end up on my todo list everyday. I try to do that once a week on Sunday. That means that sometimes I don’t have a todo list for a day and I can have an unstructured day to go with the flow.
    Regarding the creative stuff, sometimes it’s on the list, sometimes not. But I find having it out and in sight helps.

  12. Completely agree that adding hobbies to to-do lists makes them into chores! Nothing better than crossing the last thing off the list and closing all work related things before some downtime ☺️

    Chloe xx

  13. It’s great how organised you are! Do you have lots of super notebooks you rights your lists in? ✏️ . I need to start writing lists to be, coz when I have too much to do I end up doing nothing 🤷🏼‍♀️

  14. I make lists but i try to limit it to maybe 5 things and only when I really need to – i’m not great at going with the flow as i love to plan things, and LOVE ticking things off my list, but i try and keep it in a time frame – i work from home a lot too so i tend to say okay this is my work to-do list, my work day finishes at 6pm or whenever, if its not done, i can add it to tomorrow’s list but after 6pm then thats relaxing time 🙂
    Hels xx
    http://www.thehelsproject.com

    • That’s a brilliant way to go about a day, especially when you work from home. I’m so guilty of just spending the entire day from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed working from a list. There’s no time for me to just, “be me” and do what I want!

  15. Great article dear, for me I tend to write a to-do list but I never stick to it, or I allow certain things to roll over to the next day. I need a stronger work ethic to work from a list.

    Tx.

  16. I’m probably a serial to-do lister too. I make a general to-do list at the beginning of every week and I make it more detailed every morning…I tend to get a little down if everything is not checked off. But I’ve been working on fixing my Type-A personality. I really loved your post! Thank you so much for sharing!

  17. I personally leave my to-do lists for my work and keep my downtime free for me to decide in the moment. But deffo serial to-do lister when it comes to work! Nothing more satisfying than ticking something off as done ✅❤️

  18. I write lists for everything as well and you make such a valid point, putting things onto the list turns them into chores. Hope you find time to do some painting!

    Kirsty | The Monday Project | themondayproject.co.uk

  19. I used to LOVE lists, especially when I have a zillion things to do but I’ve noticed that since working from home – they sadly don’t work as well. I need a proper workspace and a routine job which isn’t the case ATM. Maybe it’s the atmosphere that we’re in?
    thewongblog.com

    • I couldn’t work from home if I didn’t have my lists. I would just sit there and watch Netflix all day. The lists remind me of all the stuff I have to do and the fact that I work from home and I work for me, I simply cannot afford not to do them.

  20. I love a to-do list, but only for the important shit that needs to get done. I don’t include things for me – like reading, or having a bubble bath. I think that’s where the balance comes in – for me, to-do lists are about jobs that need to be done, work, chores etc. I don’t want my hobbies to be on that list!

  21. Great post! I love a to-do list! It is so satisfying ticking things off, a real sense of achievement. I even find myself adding things I’ve already done just so I can tick them off! There are the things that I never get round to doing and they creep onto the next list and the next one…

  22. Interesting, I’ve never actually written on my to-do-list leisurely things like start reading x2 chapters of a book I want to read or feed the ducks at the pond… Lovely… (Maybe it might work for me!)
    – Catherine

  23. Pingback: My dysfunctional relationship with achieving shit  | Jenny in Neverland

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