To-do lists help you keep organized and on track. Writing down all the things you need to get done by the end of the day leaves you mental energy to actually accomplish them. But are all the tasks in the todo-list actually good? Are there things that are just dump and shouldn’t get accomplished at all? Hard to tell. I haven’t figure out yet how to prune my to-do list from mere obsessive-compulsive tasks. However, I have some insight from a past experience. Let me bring you back to last February, the night before an important review meeting (again!).
I’m in my bed, almost falling asleep. All of a sudden, a painful, scary thought crosses my mind. I didn’t put out in the balcony my coat: that was the last item of my todo-list! I can’t skip this. They were serving würstels today at the university mensa and I stayed in front of the grill for too long waiting for a lean chicken breast. I can’t go to the review meeting tomorrow with a stinky coat that smells of würstels. That might even kill somebody. How could I forget about something so important? Maybe I should really start using Google Calendar and stop writing my to-dos on pieces of paper that I lose later on. Anyway, I gotta take the coat outside. Now!
Uhmmm… But I’m in my warm, comfy, fluffy bed. I don’t want to stand up, walk to rack at the entrance door, grab my coat, put it on the chair in the balcony, spray tons of garments deodorant (I rather get intoxicated than have to deal with würstel smell), and go back to bed. Even now that I broke down the entire process into small actionable steps, I still feel paralyzed. Ok, let’s try the « five seconds rule » by Mel Robbins. If I count backward from five, this should awaken my prefrontal cortex, the « go conquer the world » part of the brain with a prominent Type A personality. Five, four, three, two, one… Nothing. Still in my bed. Ok, the self-help community doesn’t help. Hundreds of hours spent on YouTube watching their motivational videos turned out to be a total waste of time. Time that I could have spent learning how to bone a chicken or how to open wine bottles (that’s why I never drink alone).
I’m almost falling asleep again when I realize I have to go to the toilet. Damn it! This is the last time I drink ginger tea after 9pm, I swear. What do I do now? I must pee. Otherwise, I will have nightmares about me desperately trying to find a toilet and wake up exhausted at 4am to go pee anyway…
Wait. This actually makes sense. Do I want to have nightmares all night long or should I just get myself a kick in the butt, bring the damn coat outside and pass by the toilet as well? Of course I rather pick the second option. Bang, done! Gosh, it worked. This technique worked! I just have to find a catchy name for it that possibly doesn’t contain the word « pee » and publish it. My technique will beat « the five-second rule » and I will get speaking engagements around the globe, be interviewed by the most prominent exponents of the self-help community and make a real difference in the world!
It’s morning already. The morning of the review. The storm outside wakes me up. It’s rainy and windy like never before. I get out of my bed to take back inside the coat, so it can warm up before I wear it. The coat is not there. What?! The wind must have been so strong that it lifted it from the chair it was lying on and made it fly down in the yard. Panic. Panic, panic! I grab my glasses to think clear and see further, like the Elves in The Lord of the Rings. The rain is so heavy that everything is foggy and I cannot see down the yard. I have to rescue my coat. At the cost of risking my own life!
Despite the panic, I get bombarded with all sorts of thoughts and silly questions that come to mind. In case I manage to rescue my coat, is it going to be wearable again? How am I supposed to clean it? Will the gentle program of my washing-machine be enough? Can I get it cleaned at all? Maybe I’ll have to buy a new one. Only, a good coat will probably cost around 500 Euro. Should those 500 Euro be eventually taken from my long-term emergency fund (which covers six months of expenses in case I lose my job) or from my short-term emergency fund (which covers sudden expenses such as wisdom teeth to be removed, car repairing, and pet surgery)? I don’t remember what that YouTube channel dealing with finance recommends. But my gut says that a 500 Euro-worth coat might be a good long-term investment that’ll keep you warm even if jobless. While I’m having all these thoughts I get out of my bedroom and head to the bathroom because… well, I need to pee. What I see puzzles me as if I saw a ghost. The coat is actually hanging from the rack at the entrance door!
So… Did I just dreamed about it? It seems so. I can’t believe how my obsession for getting done all the items on to-do lists triggered the entire story in my brain. Can I say I learnt something from this experience? I’m not entirely sure. What can I say, that being a lazy bastard might sometimes save you 500 Euro? Two things are sure: that I’ll never publish that self-help book beating Mel Robbins’ five-second rule and that today at the review meeting my stinky coat will kill somebody.
Now I would love to hear about your relationship with to-do lists. Do you use them? Can you stick to them? Have you ever had an experience like mine where not doing something on your list was actually the best thing to do? Please write a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Breaking Thirty Newsletter for more posts!