Four reasons to STOP keeping a to-do list

When I decided to quit keeping a to-do list, it felt weird.  It felt like it should be this shameful, hidden secret.

I was definitely out of step with a world where everyone is focused on doing more, being more productive, and optimizing their efficiency.

But for me, it was the right choice.  At least for now.  I’ve got four good reasons why living list free is a good decision.

Why I quit keeping a to-do list

(and why it might be good for you, too)

why i quit keeping a to do list

I stopped procrastinating.

I’m guilty of using my to-do list as a procrastination tool.  If it was something I didn’t want to deal with, I’d stick it on the list with a promise to worry about it later.  Two months later… it was still on my list.

Without a convenient way to avoid yucky stuff like cleaning the playroom, tracking down that missing financial paper, or re-evaluating our home insurance carrier I got more done.  As soon as the need came up, I would think “I better do that right now before I forget.”

Bottom line, more stuff got done.

no more to do list

It put an end to “busy.”

The day I quit keeping a to-do list, there were over 80 items that needed doing.  Quite a few of them were carry overs from previous days, quite a few more were things I knew I “should” be doing but didn’t really think were important.

When I quit keeping a to-do list, I had to keep up with everything in my head.  Obviously, stuff fell off the plate.  There’s only so many details that fit in my head.

At first, it was scary to realize that stuff wasn’t getting done.

Then I realized that the important stuff still WAS getting done. What fell off the plate was the adult version of “busy work.”  I didn’t decorate the yard for a few holidays. I didn’t finish that crochet project that’s been on my list for months. I didn’t weed the garden for a month.

Bottom line, I had more time to do the stuff that really mattered because I wasn’t busy trying to check 100 things off my list.

I re-focused on the big stuff.

The really big important things are never on my to-do list in the first place.

I’ve never put “hug your husband” on my list. It just happens.

I’ve never put “sit down and listen to your son’s worries” on my list. When he needs me I make time.

I’ve never put “play with your child” on my list.  I probably should.

While I have been known to put “pray” and “read your bible” on my list, the best times I spend with God spring from a heart-felt desire to be with Him and not the fact that they were on my list.  (Honestly, by the time “pray” ends up on my list, I’m so out of whack that it shows.)

I would feed my family and do laundry whether I had a to-do list or not.  I even remember to feed the cats and water the rose bush.  The crazy truth is that my house is cleaner and more company ready than it’s been in a very long time.

Bottom line? To-do lists aren’t what drive me to invest myself into the people and ideas I love.

I got honest about what I was accomplishing.

I love checking stuff off “the list.”  I’ve been known to write something on my to-do list JUST so I could cross it off… after I’ve done it.

Seeing a whole page of check marks made me feel important. It made me feel accomplished. It gave me a sense of power and significance.


… checking 50 things off my to-do list is meaningless if they aren’t the right 50 things.

I realized that I could spend all day checking off “busy work” and still not accomplish what God wanted me to be doing.

I realized that if I always had a more list than I had time, I wasn’t leaving margin. There wasn’t time left for the unexpected and important things… like relationships.

The bottom line was hard to swallow. Those little checkmarks on my to-do list feel great, but they’re as meaningful as the badges I earn from playing a video game or unlocking the next level of Candy Crush.

Will I ever have a to-do list again?


With caution.

I don’t want to enable procrastination.

I don’t want a monument to busy-ness or a bloated sense of my own importance.

I want to focus on the important stuff and leave margin for the “good stuff.”

When I think I can do that, I’ll be ready.


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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. I really like this. Probably because I’ve never been much of a list maker. Of course, I still manage to procrastinate just fine without a list!
    Jean recently posted..Back to School SuppersMy Profile

    • Oh, I can procrastinate without a list too… I’m just less efficient at it. 🙂

      Not having a list brings the “do it now” pressure on, and that seems to help me right now.

  2. I still use to-do lists but they are really used just to help me plan my day. I have such a terrible memory that I need the list to help me remember the time sensitive chores/errands/emails/calls I need to get done. Usually, just the exercise of writing tasks down helped me to remember them and I rarely have to refer to the list!
    Mo recently posted..Magical Trip To MontanaMy Profile

  3. I think that sounds like a good decision for you. A to-do list isn’t supposed to stress you out – it’s supposed to help you get done what you need to do. If you’re doing that without a list, then you don’t need a list.

    I couldn’t function without a list. I have ADHD and keeping a list helps keep me sane. If I stopped keeping a list, I would be more stressed.

    I applaud you for doing what works for you even though it goes against the flow.
    Patty recently posted..10 Things That Make House Cleaning Difficult, Part 1My Profile

  4. Rebecca Gerena says:

    Thank you so much for you honesty! This hit home! I've been reducing busy work and spending more time with the family but I never realized how meaningless my to do list was compared to the most important things I should be doing with my family & for God!

    • Rebecca, it was hard for me to admit that my to-do list was just causing busy-ness and enabling my bad habits. Creating time in our busy lives is hard – it requires discipline. But it’s sooooo worth it. When I slowed down and cut all the crazy out, I felt so much better. I quit yelling at my kids (as much). I felt whole.

      I encourage you to keep trying and focusing on the important stuff.

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