There's always one more thing to do

It's no secret that I love lists. I've talked about it on my podcast and I've blogged about it forever. For me, there is something very satisfying for me to accomplish something and cross it off the list - or delete it altogether.

And yet...

In all this talk of making better lists and organizing one's self, one thing is true: the to do list never goes away. It never ends.

I don't see this as a fatalist thing, or a depressing thing. And, in fact, there was a time in my life when I felt so very overwhelmed and burdened by things to do that I prioritized them over everything else. Everything else. I could always find busywork in cleaning, or organizing, or doing project X that had been on the back burner forever.

I could also be distracted by tools: trying a system out (Things, OmniFocus, GTD) and then letting the tool be the focus instead of the things to do, or not do.

But in the meantime, I realized that choosing to do something on my list meant I wasn't doing something else. The list would live forever, and it would always be there. And as I sat with that I came to see that the list couldn't be my life anymore. So I worked on doing something very difficult: I started to let the list go.

That led to initial feelings of guilt ("Oh no! I'm not organizing the garage today EITHER!") and regret. Those feelings subsided over time to a place of acceptance, because it helped me refocus on the choices I was making at the time. Yes, I wasn't reorganizing the garage. But what was I doing instead? Something that was more important.

The to do list is never going away. You can recognize that and dive completely into the list forever and ever, never finishing, always busy. You can also recognize it and choose to live your life, and not let a list rule you.