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The Reason Why Your To Do List Is Holding You Back

Good ol' to-do lists.

Some of us swear by them.

Some of us have ones that are a mile long or never-ending.

Some of us write a new one every day.

We split them into categories: around the house, groceries, work, vacations, the kids...

We avoid them because it’s too stressful to be reminded of everything we haven’t yet achieved (re: we are failing).

We like to add things to them after the fact.

To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, serve various functions, and are found in all sorts of places: stored in an app, stuck on our fridge, tracked in our journals, scribbled on sticky notes, and memorized in our heads.

In a productivity workshop I facilitated, we had a conversation around to-do lists and a few questions arose:

Why does it feel as though there is nothing truly significant on my list?

If my list is full of things that aren’t important, how do I know what to prioritize?

Why is there nothing on my to-do list that I want to do?

When I am tackling something I think I want to do, why am I not feeling fulfilled?

Through exploring these questions, the workshop participants were able to piece together reasons why to-do lists can feel so demotivating and actually hinder productivity.

Here are some to-do list truths you may be able to relate to:

  1. Sometimes, tackling a to-do list item actually increases stress because we feel we are wasting our time on something that doesn’t actually matter.

  2. We tend to distract ourselves with the easiest tasks on the list instead of tackling bigger things - which is procrastination at its best.

  3. The to-do list never ends, which feels exhausting, discouraging, and heavy.

  4. Not many of the things on the list are aligned with the core of who we are, or where we want to go.

  5. Even if we are crossing off 50 things from our to-do list in a given day, we still don’t feel deeply productive.

Remember - productivity is about effectively making progress through aligned and intentional action. This is why we may get a lot of shit done and still feel the weight of to-do’s bearing down on us. Without alignment, productivity is nothing more than busy work.

And unfortunately, most of our to-do lists are filled with busy work.

Here’s where “...a rose by any other name…” doesn’t quite add up. Naming the list a “to-do” list is a problem in of itself, and here’s why:

  • The name “To-Do List” naturally invokes daunting feelings tied to all the “shoulds” weighing us down. It effectively makes us avoid the list altogether.

  • We've called it a to-do list, and so we fill it with to-do’s, regardless of whether those to-do’s are actually important or in alignment with our highest selves.

  • Keeping in mind the Universal Law of Attraction, we know that like attracts like. If we have a habit of putting random, unimportant things on our lists, filling them just for the sake of crossing things off later, the Universe will comply by helping us grow our lists with more insignificant things.

So, the solution?

We need to transform our to-do lists.

And we can do this simply by calling them something else.

By renaming your to-do list to something that deeply resonates with your core being and the direction you aspire to go, you are transforming the definition of productivity that the former to-do list had instilled in you.

When you re-name your list here’s what happens:

  1. You invoke more conscious decision making in terms of what goes on the list.

  2. You add meaning to what is already on your list. What seemed dull before will now have significance: you shift your perspective.

  3. You begin to curate the life that you want with an undercurrent of passion and rigor.

  4. This list becomes a beacon of light calling upon the Universe to conspire with you to make things happen. You feel aligned with everything on your list and your list becomes The Way.

The Universe speaks through vibrations, and these vibrations include feelings. If your list is meant to help you manifest and embody your ideal life, then you will no longer feel dread whenever you look at your list. Instead you’ll feel inspired, passionate, and motivated.

What if your to-do list became your “Manifestation List”? Or your “Live My Best Life” list? Productivity will take on a whole new meaning. (Move on over Shakespeare - this rose is gonna smell like Divine inspiration after we rename it!)

Of course, in the workshop we renamed our lists.

One client named hers the “A-Student of Life” list.

I named mine the “Abundance” list.

So what will you rename yours?

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