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Ditch the To-do Lists Forever

Virginia Phillips

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To-do lists seem to get longer and multiply every week.  These days, it is not uncommon to hear about dozens and dozens of items on someone’s to-do list. Many people will add to their lists by starting a second, a third, or even a fourth list. They write the things they have to do on post-it notes, sheets of paper hanging on the refrigerator, on documents on the computer, on notepads, and right on the palm of their hand with an ink pen. Before they know it, they have lists of things to do everywhere.

This could be stressful for someone to execute every item he or she has on his or her to do list, and much more so if they track everything that’s on it.   The sense of overwhelm to-do lists can bring pushes people to entertain distractions, such as social media notifications, funny videos, and even a good cup of coffee. They make serotonin levels rise and guilt then creeps in because so much was left unaccomplished due to lack of focus. In turn, fear and failure become a part of your daily routine and your life’s story.

What if this could change? What if you ditched your to-do lists forever and achieved greater success? It might seem impossible, but now could be the time to let go of to-do lists and the burden you are carrying, too.

  1. Eliminate the ‘should dos’, the ‘have to dos’, and ‘must dos’. These are not action words and your brain doesn’t know how to process them. To-do lists create the need to use words that are not action words, and this creates undue stress.
  2. Set Goals for the Year. At the beginning of the year, we talk about new year’s resolutions, but we rarely hear about someone setting goals and providing a roadmap for his or her life. Identify several things you want to happen during the year. This will allow you to say no to some opportunities because they don’t match what you want to do. When you focus on chasing your dreams, activities that distract you from achieving them become less enticing and won’t appear on your to-do list. By doing so, you’ll lessen or eliminate stress.
  3. Develop Systems. Every day, you have the amazing opportunity to dream about how you are creating your future. It begins by drafting a template and implementing a way to organize items you can accomplish before you go to bed. It will include a written plan, annotating a specified time during the week or during the day; you will spend time on hand-selecting activities to accomplish. Your system will establish deadlines and due dates and depict how you are holding yourself accountable to complete the items selected.

You may want to sort them by small tasks, big tasks, important tasks, or the time of day you will do the activity before you make your selections as to how you will spend your time in the near future.

  1. Create wish lists. People are putting so much on their to-do lists; it is like going to a restaurant and ordering the whole menu because it could be amazing to eat, but there is no way you could eat everything! Create one book or one online file where you can put everything you want to accomplish.  Treat it like your menu of possibilities.
    When you open the file or your book of wish lists, you will get a sense of joy because it holds all the things you can choose to do and not the things left undone.
  2. Forge an Agenda. By ditching the to-do lists, you can reduce the guilt you carry because you will not see all the things you didn’t get to cross off your list. The burden to yourself dwindles when you let go of those undone actions. Carrying around a list of things you should have done or would have done if you had already taken action is counterproductive. Rather, embrace your life by being a leader who guides the events of your day through an agenda format. This is a forward-thinking method, and it gives you an opportunity to establish a log of your journey. You can document and capture where you spend your time and resources to achieve your goals and dreams by annotating only the items for which you have enough time, energy, and capability.
    Everything else remaining, whether it is what you want to do or what you need to do, it can have its own special place on your wish list. If you chose to make more things happen, go to your wish list and select a few of them. This then becomes a repetitive action reinforcing you to achieve more than you could possibly think or imagine.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your life’s legacy can’t be built in a day, either.  It is a journey. Each day has its purpose, and if you can approach your day by doing what you have in your capacity to finish and give yourself the opportunity to do more instead of carrying around your fears and perceived failures, you will find more happiness and satisfaction in your life.

Virginia Phillips was raised in a large family in a small city outside of Milwaukee. After college, she excelled as Human Resources professional for many years in the US and in Europe until a car accident in 2012 transformed her life. She is now an award-winning coach who inspires and guides individuals to narrow their confidence gap, manage their time better, and create opportunities for success with easy-to-apply techniques. She recently launched her entrepreneurial podcast Yes, You Can using the same title as her best-selling book.

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