Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Cross Items Off a Perpetual “To-Do” List

Do you have a “perpetual list?”  A list of things that gets carried over, each time you rewrite your “To-Do” list?  Items that are always on your lists, yet never seem to get done?  

I do.

To-Do List supplies
In addition to these items, I now use my phone and computer to create lists, and I may soon begin using Evernote as well!

I am a list maker.  I have been one, probably since high school or even before. Lists keep me focused and help me organize my day, this blog, and my life!  Lists help me feel productive; I'm one of those people who will even write down something that I have already accomplished - just so I can cross it off my list!

I don't just make one list.  I have a variety of lists, and I suspect many people do as well.  Here is a sampling of mine:

Master List

I keep a running list of long-term type things I need to accomplish.  For example:
*Change smoke detector batteries
*Remember to renew passport in 5 years
*Become more fluent in Spanish
*Organize our photo collection
*Remember to transplant the pine tree growing too close to the house next Spring
... you get the idea!

Short Term Lists

I can have a variety of these floating around at any given time.  A few examples of these:
“To Do: This Week”
“To Do: Today”
Grocery list.  Costco list.
Packing list.
People to call & emails to send.
Appointments to schedule

Specific Lists

I also keep a lot of “how to” type lists, such as: 
Steps for publishing a blog post
Home-remodeling ideas
Volunteer event-planning checklists
Christmas cards sent/received list
Colors and brands of my favorite cosmetics

... and so on, and so forth.

Most of these lists are functional and useful.  My memory is not good enough to contain all of this information, and it is helpful to refer to these lists. 

Why Do Some Things Never Get Crossed Off?
Some items have been on my lists for years! The items that get transferred from one rewrite to the next of my master list, however, can cause me to feel angst and guilt.  
  • Why is it that I just can't accomplish these things and move on?  
  • Should I just give up on some of them, and stop rewriting them? 
  • Are they even goals that are still important to me?  

Maybe it is time I take a good look at that master list. Perhaps I should decide what is really important, and then buckle down and actually accomplish those things.

Have you heard of the book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed by Paula Rizzo?  According to the back cover, list-making is a trait of highly successful people. (Whew, that makes me feel good!) 

The book cover promises list-making can increase productivity and decrease stress. All of the reviews on are excellent, and the book is available for sale on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback form. 

I have no doubt this book would be helpful to anyone not already routinely making lists. Since I am already a compulsive list-maker, I wonder if reading it would have much impact on my life?  Perhaps it would answer my questions about what to do about the items I never get crossed off!   It's worth a try - I think I'll put it on my list!


Are you a list maker? Do you have items that never seem to get crossed off?

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  1. Oh...the lists!!! I make them all the time and then I can't find them. What's with that? I stuff them in my purse or pocket and spend half my time trying to figure out where I put them. This old age is for the birds!!! When I was younger, if I ever wrote something down, I could remember it. Not anymore. Oh, well, if it doesn't get done today...surely it will tomorrow. Good article, Susan.

  2. Thanks Lynn - and I know exactly what you mean! Your Scarlett O-Hara quote is one of my favorite phrases!

  3. I'm a list maker too! I've got some items that I've been rewriting on my to do list for over a year! One of my goals this year is to do one of them each month, and finally get them off the list. We'll see if I can do it!

    1. That's a good goal Lana - maybe I will try to apply it to my list as well!

  4. Genius! I've never been a list maker. Oh, I do a grocery list - that gets left on the fridge when I actually go out to get the groceries. Husby is a great list maker. And so are our kids. Once when we were planning a long vacation, I had the opportunity to be in each of our youngest kids rooms (at that time aged 14 and 16) and both had a list on their night tables listing the things they needed to remember for the trip. And you know what? They remember things and are very organized. I don't and I'm not. Sigh. There's a lesson here...

    1. I think I have rubbed off a bit on my kids - I have seen that they both sometimes make lists as well. I hate getting to the grocery store without my list!

  5. I am definitely a list maker. And I always ensure that I put something on the daily to-do list that I KNOW I can cross off (feed cat, have shower type things) so I can feel that I am achieving something. Sadly sometimes I use the lists as a tool to beat up on myself. These days I refuse to put more than half a dozen things on a daily list.
    The big ones? An archaelogist's heaven...

  6. Yes, I'm a list maker...I have lists of my lists. Every day job lists, once a month lists, once or twice a year lists, lists of my goals in home improvement or finances or personal improvement...the list goes on lol.

  7. I do make a lot of lists. One of the lists that never seems to end is my one for groceries. There are different things I buy at different stores and just as soon as I catch up on one list we run out of things for another! Also, I have found that if I make a short list of things for my husband to take care of he usually gets them done much faster than if I just tell him and don't write it down. I think he likes the feeling of crossing out everything on a list!

  8. I'm thoroughly addicted to lists, including my perpetual ones. I keep them on the computer for easy editing and about died when my computer had issues a couple months ago. Just wandered sadly in circles not knowing what to do... ;) Thanks so much for linking up to Awesome Life Friday - we're looking forward to seeing what you have to share this week!


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