How To Make Your “To Do” List Work For You

by Catherine Pratt

making your to do list work

Do you write yourself “To Do” lists with the very best of intentions of accomplishing everything on that list yet find that you constantly struggle to get a single one of those items completed? You may even add things that you did while procrastinating just so that you can check something off the original list. It’s frustrating and you may end up with even more anxiety than you started with because you haven’t finished what you need to get done. Yet the harder you try to accomplish your tasks, the more you find yourself involved in avoidance techniques. The good news is that it may not be you. It may actually be the “To Do” list itself which may be making the situation harder than you intended.

Here’s why:

To Do lists can come attached with certain negative emotions. These can include:

1. Anxiety – you suddenly feel like you “have” to do something and that thing should be done now. You may feel anxious about it until you are able to check it off your list because it is always at the back of your mind that there is something you should be doing. It’s hard to accomplish tasks when you’re feeling anxious about them. It takes away from you being able to focus on the real task at hand.

2. Frustration – with not being able to get a job done and the frustration that something still needs to be done. It may also bring up the feelings of frustration of why you have to do it in the first place and not someone else.

3. Guilt – you may end up feeling guilty for not having that item done. It’s on your list, it should be done and it’s not so you feel guilty about it.

4. Human Nature – human nature says that if you “have” to do something then you instantly don’t want to do it. You will procrastinate and do anything to avoid having to do it.

A way to avoid the negative emotions is to simply change the word from a “To Do” list to an “Intention” list. So now instead of thinking “I have to go pick up my drying cleaning”, you’ll think “I intend to pick up my dry cleaning on the way home”. Your list will now be one of, “I intend to…”. It sounds strange as it’s a very simple thing and the only thing you’ve changed is the wording. You still have to do the tasks but you’ve now taken away any negative feelings associated with your list. It’s not something you “have to” or “need to” do anymore. It’s now something you “expect” to do. You’ve changed your mental outlook and you will no longer feel anxiety, guilt or frustration towards it. You will suddenly feel more empowered to actually accomplish your goals.

You may be thinking that this is just too easy. Words are more powerful than we sometimes give them credit. Just one word can have a powerful effect on how we feel about a situation. By having a greater understanding of ourselves and our emotions can mean the difference between being able to achieve our goals or always struggling to complete the simplest of tasks. With your new “Intention List” you’ll be off to a good start on being able to finish whatever you decide to do.

Back to top of "To Do Lists"

Back to "Confident Thinking" page Protection Status