Ditch the ‘to do’ list


People assume that those who are successful not only have a ‘to do’ list, but that they also manage to complete it everyday.

For years I wrote a daily ‘to do’ list and failed everyday to complete all the items on the list. It got so depressing I eventually stopped making the lists. But then I felt guilty for giving up.

If you are writing a daily ‘to do’ list and failing to complete everything on the list, then you are almost certainly releasing cortisone into your body, which is really bad for your health.

Cortisone is one of the main hormones released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. It elevates blood pressure and prepares the body for a fight or flight response. It creates that feeling of being overwhelmed and cornered. That cannot be good for you.

The thing is, most people are not short of things to do. There’s always more to do in a day that we can reasonably be expected to achieve.

Secondly, the really important things will always bubble up to the top and demand our attention anyway. We don’t want to create a situation where we are always ‘fire-fighting’ or leaving everything to the last minute – that may cause us more stress. We can plan ahead and use common sense.

But instead of making a ‘to do’ list why not decide what is the one thing we really want to achieve today and aim for that. If we get it done quickly, great. We can do some other stuff too. But we never know what the day will bring.

There’s a great Dilbert cartoon where he finds the stapler is out of staples. He goes on a quest around the building to find the person who has the stationery catalogue so he can get some staples ordered. He gets side tracked by every person he speaks to. As he leaves the office at the end of the day, he tells Dogbert, ‘Thanks to teamwork, I almost stapled something today.’

We can all have days like that!

But perhaps the best idea is to change your list to an ‘I did’ list.

At the end of the day, think back about all the stuff you actually did do today. Include the little things – where you helped others, the emails you sent, the phone calls you made and anything creative you did in your own time. This will bring about a feeling of wellbeing. It will be a ‘pat on the back’. Instead of thinking that you failed to complete a list, you’ll see a full list of things you did complete – things you may have overlooked if you were to stare at an uncompleted ‘to do’ list.

When you write your ‘I did’ list for the day, it is more likely to release dopamine into your system which produces a happy feeling inside us. Dopamine can also be triggered by food or sex so it’s a powerful, feel-good chemical, which is good for us as it makes us happy.

If you write your list in the evening, the feel-good factor will help you sleep better because you will feel more satisfied with your day.

Is it time to ditch the morning ‘to do’ list and start the evening ‘I did’ list?

‘One thing is needed…’

– Jesus (Luke 10:42)




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