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Is an empty TO DO list ever possible?!

Empty TO DO listWhats your TO DO list looking like?

Does it seem so overwhelming that you aren’t even sure where to start and so why bother starting at all? – or are you the type to get loads crossed off every day and are in control of things, even though things keep getting added to it?

Whichever you are, my betting is that you always have something on your TO DO list at the end of each day.

So – is it really possible to get it down to nothing – or are we forever chasing an impossible dream, and beating ourselves up in the process for not getting everything done…..

What do you think?

I asked this question to my lovely facebook followers this week – and everyone was in agreement that there was no way your TO DO list could ever be blank – unless you were talking about your daily TO DOs rather than your master TO DO list of course.

Although everyone wanted to know a way to do it (I’m working on it I promise!!!)

It depends which TO DO list you are talking about!

I am in full agreement that a daily list shouldn’t overwhelm, but help to you progress towards what you want to achieve.

Really we are talking here about the Master TO DO list – which should be everything you need to do at some point in time that can’t as yet be scheduled into your diary.

Getting the Master TO DO list under control

I talked in a recent post about how to organise your Master TO DO list so that it is more manageable, but didn’t cover whether it would be possible to get everything done ever.

My thought – NO.

It simply isn’t possible to get everything done at any one given time, why?

Because life gets in the way.

No sooner have you got one task done, you will find that that either creates a new task, or someone else has created one for you.

Your TO DO list is a cyclical beast!

Learn the cycle of your TO DO list

What is important to understand and acknowledge when you have a TO DO list is whether things are staying on the list for too long.

Your TO DO list should manage tasks – both incoming and outgoing.

Tasks shouldn’t be left on the list for months/years……

You know the types of things – things that you really don’t want to do, things that can be swept under the proverbial carpet, the clutter from your TO DO list that you simply aren’t seeing anymore.

New things always seem more inviting

Its the same with anything – you are happy with a specific item in your home until you see a new version – and then you want that.

Its just the same with TO DOs. The newer the task usually the more urgent or relevant to your life it is.

How can you combat those TO DOs that threaten to stay on the list forever?

Some organised people suggest adding a date to your TO DO list when the task was added – and to scan to see whats been on there the longest – getting those crossed off quickly.

Others suggest rating the tasks from 1-5 for both urgency and importance (5 being the most and 1 being the least) – multiplying the number together to give each task a rating, and then working through them like that.

I think that both of these can be very time consuming, and in the amount of time you’ve spent working out what TO DO – you could have actually done something instead!

If you use your TO DO list each day, then you should simply get used to adding things to the bottom of the list as they come in, and starting at the top of the list when you are adding tasks to the diary.

NB – if you are working with sublists such as TO CALL, TO BUY etc…. then just use each sublist in the same way.

Urgent tasks by their very nature should be date specific, so can be added to your diary within a specific time frame anyway – so should never hit your TO DO list – so we are only talking about tasks that can be done at literally any time in the future, and if anything suddenly becomes urgent on your TO DO list you should usually be able to scan and see it quickly if you look at it everyday.

Don’t beat yourself up

Is an empty TO DO list possibleThis post is really here to say that its alright if you don’t ever finish your TO DO list – as its pretty much impossible – what is important though is to make sure that things don’t stay on there for long – as these are the tasks that will make you feel worse every time you look at the list.

Who wants to feel bad?!

Simply put – Manage your TO DO list so that it doesn’t overwhelm you – and you never know, one day soon you may be staring at a blank piece of paper that is titled TO DO LIST……. I can dream can’t I!



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7 Responses to Is an empty TO DO list ever possible?!

  1. Helen Smith Apr 26, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I got so depressed by those ever expanding to do lists so I looked for a solution and so now instead of using an ongoing to do list I've discovered the benefits using a "closed list". This has a maximum of 7 items that all need to be crossed off before a new one is started (much more motivating). That way you can actually empty the list! The larger long term things can be defined as"projects" and then broken down into small stages added bit by bit to the closed to do list so transforming "Repaint the entire house" to "step one- go to DIY store and collect paint cards" something that can be crossed off in half an hour rather than 10 years time (if you are lucky!)

    • Julie Harrison Apr 26, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      Great idea Helen , will give it a whirl.:)

    • Katrina Louise Taylor Apr 26, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Very good idea!

    • Terry Greenwood Apr 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Is there one for organizemyvodka???

    • organisemyhouse Apr 26, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Hi Helen – Thats a great idea! Thanks for the advice. One question would be what do you do with the 8th, 9th etc… things while they are queueing up waiting to be put on your closed list? Do you forget them ever? I am one to brain dump in my TO DO list and would worry about forgetting otherwise.

      • Helen Smith Apr 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

        Hello again. The way the “closed list” works can be modified to encompass numerous items. The idea is based on research psychologists have done showing that we can only retain 7(for some a maximum of 9 I’m not pushing my luck though!) pieces of information. So all lists or bullet points etc are apparently best kept within this number.

        Sub-lists can be drawn up but the same principle applies to the number. It is called “chunking”. In this way you can use titles such as “projects”, “chores”, “phone calls”, in the same way that you would create a folder for documents on your computer.

        So the daily list could say “make phone calls” then you have a list of those you need to call with their numbers by the phone. If more than seven calls are on the list you can divide again “friends”, “financial”, “business” etc. So if you have a long list you can divide it into categories.

        You may only need to put one thing from each category on the actual day’s to do list or your list may look like this

        “1 Make phone calls(a, b and c)
        2 email(x, y, and z)”
        3 Go to DIY store and get paint cards…….
        7 Pay bills (gas, electric, phone, credit cards(l,m,n))

        Keeping the list a single day at a time ensures that it gets done so if, “brain dumping” helps you unburden your mind, do it but not as a to do list. You can select from the overwhelming mass of things you’ve “dumped” the ones you actually want to do today. Then tomorrow you can choose 7 more. It is better to finish these seven than have a list of 30 things only two of which get accomplished! I hope this makes sense and clarifies things.

        Let me know if you try it and how you get on.

        • organisemyhouse May 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

          Hi Helen – great tips again – thank you! – I totally get that daily TO DOs need to be kept short so as to avoid overwhelm. I like moving things from my Master TO DO list onto my daily schedule and that way I can slot in 2 or 3 tasks maximum per day on top of the daily stuff.

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