Time and Stress – The unassailable to-do list.


In my experience, one of the big effects of some basic time management strategies is stress reduction.

One of the major causes of stress appears to be around the fear that I’m going to forget something – that something important is going to ‘fall through the cracks’ and (to mix a metaphor) ‘come back to bite me’. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with all the things I need to remember to do spinning around my mind.

Writing them down didn’t seem to help – I’d still worry about getting everything done.

The strategy that worked for me involved convincing my mind that everything I write on my to-do list will get done beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Before adopting this strategy, my to-do list was a bit haphazard. Sometimes on sticky notes, sometimes spread out between several disorganized pages intermixed with crossed out ‘done’ items.

This all changed when I made my To-do list an unassailable document. I have no doubt that nothing written on this list will be forgotten or ignored. These are my 3 simple rules for maintaining an unassailable document.

1 – It will always fit on one page.

              I use unlined paper – that seems to be important to me. There are sometimes secondary pages that detail projects, but the main ‘to-do’ item is on that critical first page.

2 – It is re-written, handwritten in pen, every day.

              Mt fingers touch every item, every day. Computer-based to-do list don’t have the same impact on my mind. “The pen, having written, hath writ.”  Remember, the goal here is to make an agreement with yourself that you have complete confidence in. Once it’s on my list, I don’t have to remember it anymore.

3 – It is kept in the same place on my desk, in a space dedicated to it.

If I travel, I take a picture of it with my phone. It never leaves my desk. I have a ‘feeder’ to do list at home. If I think of something, I write it on that feeded list and transcribe it on the to-do list when I get to my office.

Rewriting my to-do list every morning is almost a meditative ritual that starts my day with purpose and confidence. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I worry about things that that matter like politics, pandemics, and asteroids heading for the earth.