My daughter and I have been trying to be more productive so we’ve been texting each other our to-do lists. At the end of each day, we send the current day’s list (hopefully completed) and the next day’s list. This seemed like a great idea. Accountability, you know.
But I’ve learned something during this process. That’s not how I make a to-do list. My daughter, Rachel, sits down each evening and writes down what she’s going to do the next day. And then when she gets up the next morning, she starts tackling that list. She occasionally makes some small changes but that’s about it.
Not me. At the end of the day my to-do list rarely resembles the list I started out with. Making a to-do list for my life is like trying to hit a moving target. I have all kinds of issues, including:
- After I make my list, I immediately think of at least three more things I need to add to it – things I can’t believe I forgot!
- When I’m lying in bed for the night, I think of at least two more tasks but I don’t get up and write them down because I don’t want to bother my husband. So I say them over and over and over in my head hoping it will cement them in my mind so I’ll remember them when I get up in the morning. In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember them.
- When I wake up in the morning and look at the list, my initial reaction is always, “I don’t know who wrote that list but I’m not doing it.” I guess it’s the rebel in me. I don’t like to be told what to do, even by myself. And the list that looked pretty good last night looks completely unreasonable in the morning.
- But once I get going, the list I made the night before doesn’t seem so bad. Then something happens and my schedules changes. I make adjustments but before the ink is dry, I have to make more. By then I decide to scrap the list and start over.
- I make a new plan. Then I repeat #4 – same song, second verse.
- Oh, and all day long I think of more things that need to be done today or sometime soon. I add those to the list.
- By dinner time I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t get anything done that was on my list. But when I tell my husband what I did today, there’s actually a lot of stuff – it’s just not the stuff on any of the lists.
- And then it’s couch time and I start the whole thing over again.
You see what I mean? Now, if I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that some of the changes (okay, maybe more than some) are instigated by me. Yes, I regularly screw up my schedule by getting sidetracked with odds & ends that sound more interesting than the tasks on my list. And yes, in case you were wondering, I do have ADHD!
So here are a few thoughts about moving target to-do lists.
- They’re not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re getting done what you need to, who cares if you revise your plan four or five or ten times.
- Some people have lives that are very predictable and one to-do list will work just fine. But not everybody does. If you don’t have that predictable life, don’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong if you have to revise your daily plan multiple times.
- Some people, even those with crazy lives, can look at their plan and revise it in their head. That’s awesome. I can’t do that. I have to actually revise it on paper or I feel frazzled and stressed and wonder what to do next. But re-writing it on paper gives me clarity about what needs done next and what can be skipped.
- Sometimes you have to stick to your plan and sometimes it’s okay to do something else. If you have a plan to start with, it’s much easier to make changes.
- You have to do what works for you. I couldn’t work with Rachel’s list and she couldn’t work with mine. We’re different people at different phases of life and we plan accordingly. So whether you make one list each day or five, you get to make the rules.
That’s my take on the moving target to-do list. What kind of life and lists do you have?