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Tyrannized by Your To Do List?

Tyrannized by Your To Do List?

Did you ever feel like your To Do list was dominating your life? What happens when you can’t check off all today’s tasks?  How do you feel?

We are told if we want to succeed, we have to have goals.  Written goals. With deadlines.  Then we are supposed to break those goals down into intermediate steps with completion dates.

If we keep working backwards, we eventually wind up with a daily list of things to do.  Things that must be completed in order for us to achieve the big goal one, two, three, or even five years down the road.

But…what happens when you can’t complete the list?  For us driven, goal oriented types, not completing the list puts the goal in jeopardy. Not achieving the goal is unacceptable.

So what happens?  Completing the daily to do list becomes the driving force in our lives.

I struggled with this for years.  I would set goals.  Set up milestones to be achieved. Then work my to do list each day, checking off the items as I completed them.

Then came the day when something went haywire at 8:35 in the morning and my whole day went in the tank. Sundown came and not one task checked off.  Immediately my disaster radar would kick in and I would feel overwhelmed.  My whole plan was in jeopardy.  I was failing.

Then a few years ago, I found a two-part solution.

The first part was to change my perception about how goals are achieved.

I would set goals, make plans and start down the path.  I recognized intellectually that some goals are met, others aren’t, and some get changed along the way.  Emotionally, if I set a goal, I became so invested in it failure was not an option.

I was so focused on completing the goal, that any task undone meant now I had more to do in a shorter amount of time as the completion date drew near. I watched with dismay as the to do pile grew bigger and time grew shorter.

Pretty soon, achieving the goal began to look impossible.

It was obvious I had to change something.  So, I changed the way I thought about goal achievement. Now I prefer to achieve a goal. If I don’t, it’s OK.  The sun will still come up tomorrow.

The second and most important thing I did was to change the way I looked at tasks.

I still have my to do list.  But, now at the end of the day, I sit down and make a list of everything I got done during the day. And, I celebrate the baby steps I’ve taken.

Instead of looking at how far I have to go, I look at how far I’ve come.

Instead of feeling like a failure, I feel the joy of accomplishment.

As the list of things done piles up, I can feel my goal getting closer and closer.

And the tasks that are undone?  They can go on tomorrow’s list. I am mindful of Murphy’s Second Law, “It always takes longer than you think.”

So, If you feel dominated by your to do list, try this.  For the next 30 days, sit down at the end of the day and list the things you got done. Now, celebrate those baby steps.

My guess is at the end of your 30 day trial, you’re going to feel freer than you have in years.

It’s not easy to change years of ingrained habit. I did it.  I know you can too.

Remember, achieving goals is a marathon, not a sprint.

Marathoners have a saying, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s mighty hard. Baby steps add up to 27.6 miles quicker than you think.

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