Jewels: I’m back from our whirlwind trip to Iowa to visit the folks. Now I’m busy playing catch-up with clients, and working furiously on getting the new website ready to launch, so I’m extremely grateful to this week’s guest blogger, Sarah Finks for sharing her expertise and invaluable advice with this die-hard to-do list junkie!

Julie Anne Rhodes: a confessed to-do list junkie

Sarah: To-do list’s are so familiar to all of us, especially women. We use these lists to create order in our lives at home and at work. Nothing would get done without our to-do lists. But have you crossed the line and become a to-do list junkie? Several years ago I realized that I had crossed over and had in fact become a hard core user.

Do you find yourself thinking of your to-do list all the time? When you are spending time with your kids are you secretly mentally modifying your list? In a boring meeting at work? While your partner is sharing their daily troubles with you? Where is your mind? I found that more often than not my mind was on my list. If given a chance in any of those moments I would have happily escaped just to cross one little thing off of my list. It was my way of feeling like I was in control of something.

But here is the cold hard truth, if you are spending most of your time thinking about your list and not being present in the moment you are missing out on life. It’s like watching television and trying to read a book at the same time. Your to-do list is your book, where you really want to be. And your life is the television. This is when you have crossed over into a “to-do list junkie”

Seems like a harmless little habit, right? You tell me, how much of your life are you really paying attention to. I know when I am trying to read and the television is on I miss most of the plot and most of the dialogue. So if you are operating like this in your life. Just think about how much you are actually missing. No wonder you feel disconnected and alone. You are, you are using your list as a way of escaping your life.

Also thinking constantly about your list doesn’t actually get things crossed off of it. I wish it did, but the truth is it doesn’t. So here are a few tips to help you kick the habit and start to show up in your life.

1)  Schedule- Pick a time each day or week and plan out exactly what you are going to get done. Write it down in your planner and stick to it.

2)  Decide- Make a decision that you will no longer escape to your list. It will be a challenge at first since this has become your happy place. But when you find your mind wandering there. Just become aware when you catch yourself doing it. And change the channel in your mind to what is actually happening in front of you.

3)  Think Long Term- When sitting down to make your to-do list, make sure that each of your tasks is supporting your long term goals. If it doesn’t try taking it off your list, asking someone else to do it, or hire someone.

Remember it is through thinking long term, supporting your goals each day, and showing up in the world that you will begin to change current situation. What do you think? Are you a to-do list junkie? Where do you find yourself using the most?

Jewels: Moral of the story? Make time to give your undivided attention to family and friends, and at very least – leave the grocery lists up to me, the Personal Chef Approach™ has got your back.

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  • July 17, 2012
    3:42 am

    A to do list is a comforting piece of paper in my world. It convinces me that I do need to go out to pick up supplies or have a few appointments that I need to make arrangements on how I will get there. Since I don’t work, the lists are not as important as they once were, but I find that I am more likely to go out if I have myself scheduled to do so. Whether it’s a trip to the art supply shoppe or picking up fresh veg, it’s all on my list. So whilst I’m not a junkie, I do rely on my to do list to keep me organized and to make me get out of the flat and into the world. Not really what the list was intended for, but this application seems to work for me.

    • July 17, 2012
      8:12 am

      Very interesting point. Ruthee. I agree that lists are often helpful, and in your situation they actually help KEEP you interacting and participating in life, but for some, they become almost an obsession that gets in the way of life.

  • July 17, 2012
    4:46 am

    Hi Julie Anne

    I hope you are well. I have ready your blog for a very long time now, and have meant to thank you for nearly as long. Your updates are always inspirational, fun, surprising and diverse. I learn so much about cooking, being an ’80’s chick enjoy your past, and look forward to your emails as though one of my special girlfriends is dropping a note. Thankyou so much…I live in Australia, and it must be fulfilling for you to know your thoughts, sentiments, talent and heart touch those around the globe! Best wishes, Lisa King x

    • July 17, 2012
      8:13 am

      Wow! What a lovely way to begin my day, Lisa! Thank you!

  • July 17, 2012
    12:56 pm

    I used to live for lists. Recently I’ve realized that life revolves around doing things, not listing them.

    So instead of writing them down, I just DO THEM. And if I can’t do them, I do them when I can. If I can’t do it soon, it must not be that urgent.

    The only list I keep around these days is the one I don’t even have to write – Julie Anne does – my grocery list!

    • July 19, 2012
      8:36 am

      Well that is a novel idea – “just DO THEM.” Now I know how you do all you do – you don’t waste bundles of time on your lists!

  • July 17, 2012
    2:06 pm

    Not having to write a grocery list every week is a HUGE blessing. That task used to take up so much time and energy just to have the items home and still not have any idea what to do with them. I used to be a huge list junkie. If I was going on holiday, I’d block out times to do certain things, time slots for fun and sticking to them to the point I was missing out fun. Now I write a list for stuff I need to do… call the AC dude for yearly checks, doctor and dentists t, school stuff. This clears up so much more time for actual living and not living by the list

    • July 19, 2012
      8:42 am

      I agree Rachel, juggling so many things at my age means having to have a master list (I forget otherwise), but only for majorly important things like yearly check-ups, family birthdays, appointments etc. – but then I take a note from Jodi’s and Sarah, and stop there (apart from grocery lists which I do think are huge time and money savers) at listing all the little things that really are not that important, and just get on with life.

  • July 18, 2012
    5:31 am

    I do like a list; I have one on my A4 fabric covered clipboard ( so pretty and inspiring the fabric; had to mention that!) and it helps on a weekly basis re what I need to do. But I do agree, to be thinking of lists in your head and fretting you are not sticking to that set agenda day in and day out would be exhausting and demoralising.

    • July 19, 2012
      8:46 am

      I grew up in a very regimented household, so I bucked the system, and avoid over scheduling at all costs – I find I am happier and more productive in a spontaneous environment.

  • July 18, 2012
    7:09 am

    I am definitely a ‘to do list’ person. In this day and age, and joggling work with family life, my brain has become a sieve and there is simply too much to do to remember!!!

    • July 19, 2012
      8:47 am

      I hear ya, but I also try to keep to one master list of crucial responsibilities, and let the rest flow organically.

  • July 18, 2012
    7:43 am

    Ok maybe I’m not a junkie. I only have two lists: one on the fridge for groceries as they are almost depleted so I do not forget, and an organized list on my phone divided into stores and for various items needed. Finally, i have a task list on my phone. In the past I have been known on road trips to dictate to whoever was rising with me aloud a list of to do’s so I could get it off my mind and be ABLE to live in the present. I cannot function with a to do list in my head. 🙁

    • July 18, 2012
      10:05 am

      I agree about the usefulness of a phone list — you can have someone check the fridge and text a list — are there bananas on the table: Is there enough leftover taco meat to buy more tortillas, etc.

      To-do list making is mostly a ritual to get the items out of my head and not be overwhelmed — I write everything down and pull out a couple of really important ones. I try to not EVER look at the big list except to throw more to-dos on the pile.

      In theory, once I do the things on the short list I can pull out some more items from the big list, but that never seems to happen. The unexpected always comes up…I sometimes have to ADD items to my list just so I have something to cross off…

      • July 19, 2012
        8:59 am

        I’m a firm believer in sticking to what works for you, but taking a good hard inventory of the situation periodically is important too – to make sure you haven’t crossed that line.

        I used to list everything like that too, but when the big list grew to huge proportions, I got overwhelmed and stressed out by it, and that is when it is out of control like Sarah is referring to. It started usurping time that I’ll never get back – ie. instead of being fully present with my loved ones, I was too busy worrying about what was still on the list to be done. That list will always be there, but your children grow up, fast! Your parents grow old… there are life moments that are so much more important than any list, so don’t let the list get in the way of them.

    • July 19, 2012
      8:51 am

      Simone, you have such demanding physical restraints to deal with on a daily basis. I’m sure those lists are integral to you expending your energy as productively as possibe – sometimes we need them to survive, and that is using them wisely.