My To-Do List and the Cycle of Getting Caught Up

I feel like I’m always trying to get caught up on things. And then, in those rare moments when I find myself with a completely clear to-do list, I immediately start filling it back up again with commitments and projects. That’s when life usually steps in and something takes up a huge amount of my time, only to lead me right back to freaking out about not being able to get caught up again.

The Vicious Cycle

So am I ever really caught up? Probably not. But I like to make to-do lists, and then cross the items off as I do them. I even make several lists for different categories like Work, Home, Self, etc. And then I get a nice little boost of accomplishment as I cross through items.

My husband laughs about some of the items on my list, like “shower” or “eat lunch,” but those are important things I need to do, so they go on the to-do list!

to do list kermit

The Science Behind the To-Do List

Making my to-do list is a coping mechanism. Whenever it feels like there’s too much going on to keep track of, and my brain is on a constant loop, I know I can calm myself a bit by making a list. An article on CNN about the psychology behind the to-do list mentions how the lists “can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day.” That sense of accomplishment as you check off your list comes with a decreased sense of anxiety and a little mental boost.

However the secret is to make the things on the list concise and short term. Sometimes I make the mistake of creating really long term lists with items that get carried over and carried over for months. Doing that backfires and those tasks on the to-do list that linger for weeks or months start to become bad for my own mental health and motivation.

My solution to that? Overhaul all the lists! I go through and figure out what I really want to focus on and whether some of those things can be just totally wiped off. And if they are really long term goals, I hide them in the back of my notebook.

That’s right. Not only do I make multiple lists, but I hide my own lists from myself. It becomes more of a wish list type situation. Often I’ll forget where I put that list and then find it months later. It’s fun to see if I can cross anything off that list then.

So go ahead, make a to-do list today and put some stuff on there you can easily cross off. You’ll feel just a little better for it.

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