Daily motivation 8 – don’t let your to-do list rule your life

This is one I’m sometimes guilty of. We construct a list so we feel productive and busy, but when we don’t finish everything we feel frustrated and haunted instead of elated to have achieved so much.

This Daily Mail article encourages us to take charge of our lists.


  • Remember, you control  the list, not the other way round.
  • Triage your list every morning — what are the key things that need doing? Then take everything else off and put it in a separate pending section.
  • Keep it specific. ‘Call plumber’ is fine, as it reminds you exactly of what needs to be done. ‘Sort out plumbing stuff’ is not: you’re going to see that, feel fuzzy-headed and end up transferring it to another list.
  • Do the trickiest thing first. It will free you up mentally for the rest of the day and give you a sense of achievement.
  • If you keep moving something from one day to the next, remove it from the list — it’s obviously not that important.
  • Keep wider goals, such as ‘think about new job’, on a separate, longer-term list that you check only once a week or once a month.

I was having a chat with a project worker a short while ago about to-do lists, and she encouraged me to scrap them. She told me how much pressure, stress and anxiety she used to feel when things were left unfinished. Her answer to it was throw lists away altogether and pick just one thing a day that NEEDS to be done. Anything else is a bonus.

For me, lists are more about remembering what needs doing. I WILL forget to pay my rent, sort my council tax, attend my appointments and generally do things that are essential and important if I don’t write them down somewhere. But I try as much as possible to pinpoint one thing that’s essential. It makes me feel better about my day to know I’ve done these important tasks, and if I can do enough in one day then it gives me more free time later in the week. And that’s never a bad thing – more dates for me.



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