A passionate defence of the 'to-do list'

Sometimes I think back to when I was a child, all the things I thought mattered, and how warped my view on life was. Did I want to go out with friends or stay in playing video games? Should I see this person or that person – oh shit, I’ve double booked! I mean, it was major. And of course, along with those woes came the task of balancing the things I had to do. Like, I was actually expected to make my own bed?! And go to school.?! And maintain a social life?!

How did I even manage?

Well, not very well clearly, because as soon as it came to leaving home at 18, travelling to the other side of the country and attempting to navigate life in a city 200 miles from home, the struggle to function was real. Pay bills, go to uni, do laundry, cook food, buy food (not in that order), drink wine, go to bed, wake up… The list is endless. And, back then, it wasn’t even a list; it was a dizzy array of thoughts that never quite seemed to find their place. Rather they lingered for a couple of seconds until there was an opportune knock on the door or message on my phone – then, they were forgotten forever.

A passionate defence of the 'to-do list' | Carry On Connor

Do you ever think of what you could actually have achieved if you’d done all those things that swept through your mind, leaving as fast as they came? I’m sure I’ve had some game-changing ideas. I mean, I don’t know, because I can’t remember any of them… but I like to think they’ve been bloody marvellous.

But the thought of writing everything down was something that never appealed to me. Well, it did actually, because it seemed very sensible and like the sort of thing I should be doing. It also terrified me, however, because I’d have to come to terms with just how disorganised I actually am. And, more than that, I knew an endless list would keep me up for days on end until I’d completed it. As someone who doesn’t even remember how old they are most of the time (no joke), its an issue.

There’s forgetful and there’s forgetful, though, and all those sterotypes – What did I come in here for?, Oh sorry, I had no idea…, and Fuck, I’m supposed to be there now?! – are all pretty accurate and come out of my mouth at least once per week, maybe more. Which is why, especially since I started working and had to get my life together, I’ve kept a list of everything I need to be doing right by my side.

Now, I love a to-do list – sad, I know. But it’s one of those things that, when I’m without it, it’s like losing a hand. Or leaving the house without your phone. Well, actually, maybe that’s because I actually keep it on my phone, but of course if it was on paper it’d be thrown out with the bills after an hour or two. But the reason I adore having it digitally is because a) I can erase things and never see them again and b) I arrange it by date/category/importance and only focus on certain areas as and when I want to.

I use the Todoist app – which has literally been a life-saver and has become something I use every day. Right now I have lists for everything. Work, blog, groceries, home, finances… you name it, it’s there. Another thing I love is you can share lists – yes, share them between friends! How exciting! The tragic thing here, of course, is I’m the only one of my friends who actually uses it (or maybe I’m the only one who’s out and proud), but imagine a world where you could share your to-do lists and delegate tasks. (In fact, maybe that’s why no one I know will admit to using it…

Point is, we’re all so busy and sometimes I just feel like I never stop. And more often than not, when I do, I’m thinking of what’s ahead, what I’ve got to do, and whatI should have done. But when something’s written down, there’s a relief to it. Kind of like social media – spend all day clutching your phone and you’re terrified of missing something, but put it down, step back and force yourself away, and your thoughts will soon turn elsewhere.

That’s why, more than anything, I think we should all have a written list – not only for productivity, but to give our brains a break and keep us from clinging on to thoughts that, more often than not, we blow totally out of proportion in an effort to keep them in our heads.

So that’s why I really, really do love my to-do list. Not because it means I’m going to boss my way through the day, bring home the $$ and retire to the Hamptons – but because it makes my life that little bit easier and, amid the stress of everyday life, that can make a big difference!

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