Why I advocate for completely tossing out your to-do list

I as soon as had a job the place on daily basis, I’d get a list of what wanted to be carried out. The list was all the time longer than was humanly attainable to attain.

At first it appeared like a Sisyphean battle. I was trapped in a limbo the place regardless of how strong my morning routine, regardless of how exhausting I labored or what my intentions had been, I might by no means tick all of the to-do containers. Over time, to the good thing about my psychological well being, I realized some issues on the list might get pushed to “tomorrow,” which ultimately turned “when there’s time” after which inevitably some issues would fall off the list altogether.

It’s not a stretch to name Western society productivity-obsessed. We come by it truthfully, because it’s embedded in our historical past. And our quest for methods to do extra with much less continues at the moment. Productiveness software program alone accounts for a $130 billion market.


However now, within the pandemic, the all-work-no-play mentality is catching up with us. Burnout charges within the U.S. are as high as they were a year ago, earlier than vaccine rollout was in full swing and within the thick of lockdowns. The strain of COVID stress, the blurring of private {and professional} boundaries and the by no means ending catch up is taking a toll.

On this period of data overload, it’s time we come to phrases with an uncomfortable actuality: The to-do list isn’t our pal. However there are methods to finish its tyranny and reclaim wellbeing—whereas nonetheless getting shit carried out.

1. Write the list (then ignore it)

In case you really feel like you possibly can’t escape work recently, know you’re not alone. A current research performed by NordVPN discovered that the pandemic has added two hours to the common workday for at-home staff worldwide. A distinct research from the pandemic discovered that some staff are inadvertently anticipated to do more work.

This can be a controversial opinion, however I generally inform my workers the to-do list may be most helpful as a instrument for discovering out what you don’t must do.

At my outdated job, I got here to understand quite a lot of the duties had been thrown down the chain of command till they reached the underside, the place they discovered me. None of this workload was important, and even mildly vital, to the core operations of the corporate. I solely realized this when I stopped combating the clock to finish each process and surrendered myself to the inevitable.

That’s how I got here to undertake my present strategy to the to-do list: Once you’re overwhelmed, write the list and don’t do something on it—a minimum of not straight away. As points come up, you’ll discover your list naturally prioritizes itself. You’ll be capable to spot the duties that all the time get pushed to the underside and are available to simply accept they had been by no means that vital to start with.


2. Stroll away from lists and devices

To-do lists aren’t useful once they’re a supply of stress. As a substitute of feeling dangerous that you just’re not getting sufficient carried out, take a timeout. In spite of everything, what’s the to-do list’s function? If it’s to take inventory of what that you must accomplish, there are different methods to do this.

I’m a fan of journaling. Reflective writing helps to dump what’s in your thoughts to liberate some reminiscence. For me, the act of placing pen to paper for one thing deeper than a guidelines reconnects me with my function.

Granted, not everybody’s a author. In case you’re not a fan of journaling, strive some type of meditation. Train counts, too. Go for a stroll, a run, a motorbike journey, no matter offers you area to assume. However importantly: go away your telephone behind.

Analysis exhibits that meditation breaks helped staff keep away from stress, saved them extra centered and gave them a chance to reset between duties. Don’t delude your self into considering you possibly can work by way of your breaks. Almost 90% of workers say taking a break helps them really feel refreshed, and the research is clear {that a} pause in work results in elevated productiveness, improved psychological well-being and boosts in creativity.

In case you’re out of the behavior, begin small; simply 5 minutes of freedom may be useful. What’s vital is breaking issues up. We aren’t machines, we’re human. There’s extra to productiveness than relentlessly pursuing the following process at hand.

3. Toss out your day planner

Throughout society, we’ve grow to be so reliant on the construction of attaining one thing, that we’ve overlooked the enjoyment of doing. There are two strains written by the poet David White that resonate with me, “There’s a small opening into the brand new day which closes the second you start your plans.”

Primarily, if you happen to’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to kill your inflexible schedules.

Plans are made to be interrupted. Think about the truth that we’re checking our inboxes 1 every 6 minutes on average. Add to that the video calls, alerts, chats, and e mail on this hybrid atmosphere—and you’ve got your self approaching a tipping level. For good causes, I ditched my smartphone for a “dumb telephone.” For example, do you know it will probably take us over a minute to get again on observe after sending a textual content message and as many as 23 minutes to recover from longer interruptions?

Certainly, there are huge advantages to reframing work as a collection of significant occasions as an alternative of as a hard and fast, hourly schedule. Unscheduled time and unstructured actions are the place sparks of perception come from. Blocking out reflective time the place you don’t cave to the calls for of conferences and notifications could make you considerably more efficient.

I don’t learn about you, however my thoughts has a humorous manner of effervescent up what’s most vital. If I don’t give these ideas time to percolate, I miss out on quite a bit, when it comes to innovation and private well-being. Give your self the area to course of as an alternative of racing from one process to the following.
And I’d additionally encourage one further vital step: Go straightforward on ourselves. There’s been quite a bit to maintain up with over the past 18 months or so—so overlook the guilt you are feeling with the to-do list.

It may be helpful as a guidepost, but it surely’s not a “make or break” handbook to life. For me, I get up every day a barely totally different individual. It’s a disgrace to dwell our lives enjoying compensate for the duties we’d written out the day earlier than.


Ben Crudo is CEO of Diff Agency. Ben is a technologist and ecommerce professional, who helps retailers win at the moment and tomorrow.