This Year, Let's Throw Entire Chunks Of Our To-Do List Out

by Virginia Duan
goodbye to to do lists

I have a to-do list a mile long, and quite frankly, every time I look at it, I get heart palpitations. From lists I need to take care of for my kids (school, activities, supplies, appointments) to my husband’s (ha! He’s on his own.), to work (taxes are coming up), to house projects, to just my own disaster of a life, there are just endless things I need to get done.

My response, of course, is to not do anything on the list but rather to procrastinate and do anything but my to-do list. (My favorite is to write in what I’ve done during the day and then cross them out so I don’t feel bad about myself.)

Anyone else feel me?

I always resolve to do better. I tell myself that I used to be able to do things! I was a star student in high school! (That was thirty years ago — please don’t make me feel bad.) I used to be smart and highly effective! (Also a lie! I need to stop hanging on to outdated and inaccurate memories of myself. One more thing I’ll never accomplish to add to the to-do list.)

If you think about it, to-do lists are inherently Sisyphean. Your reward for crossing off these tasks is… wait for it… MORE TASKS! Like, what’s my motivation?

The sheer weight of all these unfinished obligations is crushing — and I am no Atlas.

This year, I want to do something new.

I propose we just throw entire sections out and not worry about them.

Let’s cull our lists down to three to (at most) five objectives. If I manage to do those three things, I will celebrate and be exceedingly proud of myself. I suppose the responsible thing to do is then to add another three to five new objectives to finish and then rinse and repeat. An endless list is unmanageable; a short list is possible.

This is clearly a fantasy life.

Even as I write this, I feel the cruel fingers of reality creeping in. I hear my detractors say, “This is highly privileged. Not everyone can just drop whatever and hope for the best.”

And they’re right. It is highly privileged. It presumes that a lot of the list is optional and that — magic handwave here — everything will turn out alright.

I confess — I’m likely butchering the concept that I learned from my friend, entrepreneur Amiryah Martin about organizing your week into a list. Her explanation is far more practical and useful — mine maybe a bit too slash-and-burny. I’m just here to make you feel better about yourself, folks.

The truth, however, is: it’s both.

There will be tons of tasks I cannot slash from the list. After all, children need to be fed, bills need to be paid, people need to stay alive. Keep doing those. Alive is good.

However, there are a whole bunch of other chores that aren’t emergencies or super loud and we can often ignore them for a time without them turning into emergencies, right? You know what they are. They’re always lurking in the back of your mind, judging you.

But I say, kick those judgy errands to the curb. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better.