Good time management means sometimes ditching the to-do list

I don't have unrealistic expectations of what I can get done today, not at all!
I don’t have unrealistic expectations of what I can get done today, not at all!


This is a post I wrote in 2011. I have better time management skills now and it has a lot to do with having realistic expectations of what I can do at any given time. It was a great lesson and obviously one that I’ve since been able to learn.


I thought I’d learnt this already but I evidently need reminding. That I’m not a slave to my to-do lists. A list is supposed to serve me, not the other way around.

But there’s a lot of good stuff that I know that I don’t live.

I have such a love-hate relationship with my daily lists. It’s as satisfying to grab these pesky thoughts fluttering around my head and pin them onto a piece of paper as it is to crisply cross the items off – call x, send birthday card for y, school mufti day, pay the phone bill.

But I only think I kill those pesky thoughts. In fact they aren’t the real problem, they are only the offspring of the anxiety in my heart. And that I can’t quite kill off.

Not by myself anyway.

It all starts out fine. This time I was worried about forgetting something so on top of my daily list I made a master list of the random things I needed to do as a priority and the day I needed to have them done by.

There were ten items on the list. Each was important, and seemed doable within the week.

The first item was to enrol my two littlest into the local occasional care centre. I had got a call two weeks ago telling me I’d come up on their waiting list for membership and I was afraid at this rate they’d figure I didn’t want it anymore and offer it to someone else.

Do forms tonight, take tomorrow I had written.

That night, when I laid the baby onto my bed (he won’t sleep in his cot!) it was with the intention of going straight from there to my desk. But he looked so sweet there that I lay next to him for a second – and of course only woke up very groggily when my husband came to bed at nearly midnight.

I was annoyed at myself, annoyed at him for letting me have the rest I obviously needed. “I’ve got things to do,” I moaned.

Those forms were still on my mind the next day. I still hadn’t crossed it off the day after, and every time I looked at that list I got a little stab of anxiety at seeing very little crossed off it at all.

Finally I got a chance to go to the centre, and guess what? There was no urgency, the director told me. There is actually another thing they need from me, a copy of a doctor’s letter, and I still haven’t got around to doing those forms and it’s ok.

Why do I let a list that I have written myself, which is just a group of lines and squiggles, determine whether I have a ‘good’ ie. productive day, and a ‘bad’ ie. unproductive one?

Why do I get so discouraged and feel like a failure if I haven’t achieved things on my lists?

Why do I get so puffed up and proud of myself when I ‘get things done’.

Why do I keep letting myself believe that the doing of these types things are more important than the one thing necessary?

To be. To really, authentically, be really, me, in this moment. And to stay close to my lovely ones.

The most important things I do are not the kinds of things I tend to write onto lists.

Yes, I remember this.

Maybe the most important thing I do tomorrow is to take my boy for a walk to look for big sticks. Like I did the week before this latest manic list episode.

 I noticed the sky.
Yep, tomorrow I will notice the sky again. I don’t need to list that.
Have you ever felt frustrated when trying to manage your time? Has a daily task list helped or hindered you?
To Do List image by John Schultz

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I can identify with this post so much! I also plan too much at times instead of remembering just to “be”, live in the moment and listen to my own needs. No
    Lists for me today!


    1. Hi Sandra, I’m glad it helped you.

      I actually do still write in my diary each day what I need to do, but only what’s totally necessary – one or two things. It’s a lot saner (and 100 times more manageable) than what I used to do!


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