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)
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.
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?
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.