Don’t feel guilty about your to-do list

I recently read an article about how millennials have a very hard time tackling easy tasks on their to-do lists. Why? We’re always working, and we feel like things that aren’t work aren’t valuable. At the same time, we also feel deep shame about not getting things done.

I’ll admit that I have these feelings as well. I roll things over on my to-do list week after week, and when I finally accomplish a task that’s been hanging over me, I feel incredibly relieved.

I let the washed laundry sit folded in the basket for days. I put off going to the post office and getting my car registration renewed. I hate having to go to the store to return things.

What I’ve realized, however, is that it’s perfectly fine if I roll things over, as long as they get done. I also realized that I place more importance on things like my paid assignments because they have due dates, instead of, let’s say, cleaning out my freezer, which doesn’t necessarily need to be done at any certain time. Nothing is going to happen if I don’t clean out the freezer, so I shouldn’t feel guilty or shameful about it.

What you gravitate towards on your to-do list shows what you value in life. I value work over an organized home. And I’ll complete my home organizing tasks before going to the post office or the DMV, because they mean more to me.

I used to feel bad that I haven’t written my complete memoir yet — the most I’ve written is 40 pages. And then I found out that you need to send a literary agent a completed memoir when pitching yourself. I was sick of waiting for feedback, so I sent in my 40 pages, and a literary agent loved it. She just didn’t love the format. So now, I’m taking a structured memoir writing class to get back on track and learn how to write in the format that this agent wants. I didn’t have the tools to complete this item on my to-do list, and now I will. If I still don’t write my memoir after that, then obviously it’s not that important to me (and I have no right to complain that I’m not a bestselling author).

Another issue I used to have was that I’d write down huge tasks instead of breaking down tasks into smaller ones. I’d always feel guilty I didn’t clean the garage or upload six episodes of a podcast — until I saw that I was giving myself too much work to do. I then divided my list into smaller tasks and saw a huge improvement in my productivity.

Because of technology, a fast-paced world, a high cost of living, and constant distractions, it’s very difficult to get things crossed off our to-do lists anymore. But getting yourself into a shame spiral is not going to help the situation. Just step back, take a breath, and evaluate what’s really important. Delete the things that aren’t and focusing on getting the things that are completed. You’ll feel much better. I promise.


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