Got everything done, died anyway.

to-doIt came to me suddenly. I have begun taking my daily “to do” list to the extreme.

You know you’ve crossed the line when the number one item on your ‘to do’ list is “do the ‘to do’ list.” That way I can accomplish one thing, even it’s only the making of the list.

The second warning sign is when you do something on a whim and go back and add it to the list just so you can check it off. I do both of these things on a regular basis and now I learn that such behavior may be an early sign of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).


Oh great. I can add another malady to my already malady-filled life.

I’ve been making lists since I learned how to write in first grade. My first entry was “Write letter to Mr. Santa Claus,” and when he actually came down the chimney and delivered my most coveted toys, my fate was sealed. I would become a loyal list maker for the rest of my life in hopes that some cosmic Santa will make all my wishes come true.

So I begin each day with a list of chores, goals, and needs. It’s no big deal if the item doesn’t get checked – I move it forward until I’m sick of looking at it. After a couple of weeks, it mysteriously disappears, never to be seen again. That’s why a new section of fencing out back will never get painted. I pretended I was waiting for the wood to cure, but to tell the truth I hate painting, especially the prep and clean up necessary.


My epitaph should read: “Got everything done – died anyway.” I try to repeat that quote in my head throughout the day to put it all into perspective.

My to-do list has become a crutch. It’s my anchor in the storm of life when I become overwhelmed by all that needs doing. Making the list means I don’t have to actually get started on anything until the list is complete.  Sometimes it can take an hour.

The list is the first thing I do each morning when the day stretches forever and anything seems possible. By noon the only item scratched off is “Make the ‘to do list’.”

Another warning sign that list making has run amuck is when you search all over town for just the right notebook to contain the list, and of course you need the perfect pen to perform the ritual. When that pen goes missing, I begin to perspire and my writing hand begins to shake. I’ll turn the house upside down to find that pen before I can complete the list. By this time, the list has become a form of procrastination.

I suspect the real reason some people make detailed lists is a desperate attempt to gain some sort of control in a world which is spinning seriously out of control. We are pulled in so many directions by our toys such as cell phones, emails, and Facial Book (I call it facial book just to tick it off). Tekkie toys interrupt our focus and spawn new items on the “to do” list.

Sometimes I feel like the little steel ball in a pinball machine. Someone pulls the trigger and I go bouncing off everything in sight; then, as I head into the home stretch, a little flipper pops up and sends me back out into the minefield.

This week I experimented going without my list for one day just to see if I could live without it. I never got dressed or ventured outside the house, although I must say it was a delightful day and I piddled and puttered with no real direction. Ironically, it turned out to be my most productive day in months. Seems if I don’t HAVE to do something I’m more likely to do it.


Starting now, I’m limiting my “to do” list to three things that cannot wait another day without having me become homeless, malnourished or cited for loitering. I’m calling it the “Ta Da” list and it includes only those things which when done, will give me a cozy feeling of relief and contentment. That means I will do 1) one hard thing I’ve been pushing forward; 2) one thing to help someone beside myself; 3) and one thing that makes my heart sing and puts me in the “zone” where I lose all track of time.

3 thoughts on “Got everything done, died anyway.

  1. Good idea! Three items are manageable. I was in line at ups store yesterday and was so excited, I was able to put a big check mark my that item.

    The people around me were like, “ok, hmmmm, that’s nice”. Either they checked all their items, or weren’t into that.

    Glad to see I am not the only one who appreciates a check mark or two on my list.

  2. We are so much alike on this topic that it is scary! Sometimes, though, I write down “Find other lists.” This list gene trickled down to son Jay, also, in that I still have little note that he wrote in early high school: “Bring pen, study for math test, pray for English test.” Okay–now you can check off “Read blog comments.” Have a great Friday!

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