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Put Your To-Do List Away for a Day

I am a to-do list connoisseur, enthusiast and some might even say a fanatic. However, once in a while I take a break. Today for instance, Iíll put in my usual ten to twelve hours as a writer/work-at-home mom, but Iím not being guided by my usual bevy of lists and Iím not adhering to a set schedule.

My family and I just returned from a glorious 10-day vacation away from the city and thereís a ton of work to be done. We have to prepare for back to school next week and I have three pending work deadlines on my plate. Still I decided this morning not to check my calendar, Master List etc. Instead Iím just going to do what I know from memory needs to be done and what I feel like doing. Guess you could say that Iím easing back into the swing of things after being away for so long.

Working without a list has many advantages. David Allen writes in Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work & Life that we must always be aware of all of our commitments/projects large or small. I heed this advice using my lists to remind myself of major projects as well as lifeís minutia. As you can imagine some of my lists are overwhelmingly long. My Master List for example is a six page single spaced document. And even after a full dayís work itís not uncommon for me to only cross off half the tasks on my Daily List (a few doable bits and pieces taken from the Master List).

While to-do lists are an essential part of goal attainment, looking at all of that stuff to do and crossing off only a small fraction every day can try the patience of anyone. Today since Iím not working with a to-do list, Iím mercifully oblivious to the dozens of details Iím responsible for and thankfully not one new thing will be added. Obliviousness (in small doses) is bliss!

Working without a list for just a little while allows me flex my memory muscle. I donít have to look at my lists to know the essentials of what must be done today. There are the ritualsólike cooking, cleaning, exercising and making sure my son spends time studying for his upcoming high school entrance exam. Since Iím always checking my library account, I donít have to look at my calendar to know I have books due today. In terms of my work, I know that I have three articles due soon and Iíll spend some time moving each one forward.

I can be more spontaneous when Iím working without a list. In fact right now if Iíd done things according to schedule Iíd be working on a planned article on stress management instead of this article which Iím more inspired to write at the moment. There is nothing like writing when inspiredóthe words just flow.

Tomorrow, Iíll go back to my much more structured approach to work. Iíll spend 20 minutes just looking over my Master List and another 10 or so minutes preparing my Daily List. Iíll check my calendar etc. And without a doubt Iíll see something on the list, a small yet important detail Iíd forgotten but could easily have accomplished if Iíd been aware of it. Iíll slap my forehead and say ďIf Iíd only looked at my list!Ē

And then Iíll forgive myself. Itís true, I canít function at full capacity without my lists long term, but there are plenty of rewards to reap by putting them aside for one day.

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