Friday, April 4, 2014

Is Your "To Do List" a Tool or a Torture?

Self-motivation is a beautiful thing for sure, most people would agree. Call them tools, or “life hacks” or short-cuts or whatever you want to call them, motivated people are almost always on the lookout for ways to better channel their motivational energy into a more efficient format in order to get more things done in less time. Otherwise, what good is it to be motivated if we aren’t getting anything done? One of the most simple, entry-level, “Motivation 101” tools that we learn even as children is the basic “To Do List”

The To Do List for the motivated individual can be a lifesaver. All of the ideas, plans and goals racing through the motivated person’s mind need somewhere to be recorded, organized and prioritized. Therefore, so many people (myself included) survive each day through a constant series of amended and readjusted To Do Lists. Yes, people who love to get things done so often love their To Do Lists because they help us prevent anything from falling through the cracks and when we are feeling energized we can just look at our To Do List and get to work. In an ideal scenario, the To Do List, to the motivated individual, is something like the music score is to the symphony conductor. Yes, in a perfect world, a motivated person’s To Do List can resound like sweet music as each completed item crossed off the list is like a note successfully “played” by the Orchestra of Achievement.

However, as we all know, we don’t live in a perfect world. What always ends up happening is that “sour notes” end up showing up on our list. In addition to the things we desire to do in order to satisfy our goals this world hands us a host of not so desirable things to do. For example unfun things like “Get laptop fixed” or “Complete 20 page application for so and so" may make their way to the top of our list before we can work on what we really want to do first.  Also, motivated people sometimes can suffer from the self-inflicted syndrome of “Motivation Gone Wild” which involves overzealously adding item after item to our To Do List to the point of completely overwhelming oneself into a state of utter frustration. In the “Motivation Gone Wild” scenario, our To Do List may still be full with stuff we truly desire to accomplish, however the sheer volume of the To Do list makes it unmanageable. At times either of these scenarios can transform our personal To Do List from a pleasant tool of motivation, organization and prioritization into an instrument of torture inescapably leering over our heads.

We will always have good days and bad days for sure. But if for an extended period, your To Do List has become for you an instrument of torture, then it is time to bring some of these commonly known but oft- forgotten items back to the top of our list:

Ø  Delegate – What items on our monstrous To Do List can we put off onto another person’s To Do List? Ask yourself, have I been forgetting to ASK OTHERS FOR HELP?

Ø  Simplify and Let Go – Has our To Do List gotten out of our control because we are our own worst enemy by complicating things? Ask yourself: “What can I simply cross off this list because it is just too much for me right now?”

Ø  Self-Care – Take a nap, take a walk, take a vacation, take a break; take whatever you need to do in order to get away from the dreaded To Do List black cloud that you have allowed to darken your day. The sun will still come out tomorrow.

Ø  Recheck Your Values – Being in a neurotic state of “Motivation Gone Wild” can steer a person away from the more important things in life like our beliefs, our health, family, and even our happiness if we allow ourselves to lose control. Ask yourself: Am I letting my daily To Do List overshadow the “big picture” in life?

Those are just a few brief thoughts to try to alleviate “Motivation Gone Wild” and eradicate To Do Lists of Torture, and there are many more that you can probably list for yourself (especially since you likely are already an expert on lists!). What matters most is that you get back to managing your To Do List, as opposed to allowing It to manage you.

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