To Do List Productivity Tips chocolate cupcake with sprinkles

Can You Ever Really Finish Everything On Your To Do List?

I had a fantasy the other day (not that kind) where I had finished everything on my to do list. Every item had a line through it. I literally had nothing that needed to be done. I must have reveled in that feeling of accomplishment for nearly 10 minutes before a creeping thought took its place, “is it even possible to finish everything on that to do list?”

That thought was followed by a possibly more troubling answer: “No.”

I can hear you yelling at me right now through your keyboards shouting tales of how you once did it. But, I’ll be honest, I can’t picture it happening in my life.

Can I finish a daily or weekly task list? Sure! I love those to do lists. Every item that gets crossed out brings a happy glow. Even busy weeks full of tasks, like the week before my wedding can be dealt with through extreme bursts of productivity and liberal doses of panic.

The Must Do lists I can handle. But the To Do lists that are more goal-oriented are not so easily vanquished.

Stressed Woman Shutterstock Those Someday Goals

Here’s the issue – I can handle laundry, Monday’s blog post, car maintenance, a doctor’s appointment and bathroom cleaning. But add something like “write next book” to the list, and that one takes a little bit longer. And it’s not that I can’t break that item down into manageable parts and finish it. I can. But there’s always another creative project waiting in the wings.

All my scripts could stand refinement (because I’m a perfectionist and never want to let them go). I could always start a new one. And even if I was tapped out of new concepts, there is always more to do to push the finished or finalizing projects. There’s always more funding to find. There’s always more support to give to other filmmakers. There’s always more dreaded networking to be done.

I could sit down tonight and write 365 blogs (it just exhausts me even thinking about that), and figure out how to schedule their socialization (as though they were pre-schoolers). But I could still write more. I could still work on improving their SEO. I could still figure out how to improve their freakin’ Pinterest pins. I could always try expanded those networks while somehow managing not be drained by social media demands.

Even if I didn’t have a desire to ever work on another book, script or blog again, I still wouldn’t really be finished. The house can always be cleaner. A layer of new dust seems to start floating down the minute I clean the floors. Seriously, I can see it happening right now! The carpets could always be washed again. And again.

And heaven only knows I could always exercise more (or at all).

So, you see why that fantasy moment of accomplishment turned to despair, can’t you? Luckily, a little coconut frozen treat snapped me out of the downward thought spiral and landed me back in a more productive place. Rather than dwelling on a magical “nothing to do” reality, I’ve decided to focus on moving forward with manageable tasks that can help me accomplish both short and long-term goals.

Sure, occasionally, I’ll think about what it would be like to truly have nothing to do. In the meantime, I’m taking baby steps and celebrating the little victories. And that’s okay.

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20 Replies to “Can You Ever Really Finish Everything On Your To Do List?”

  1. I feel the same. I haven’t ever completed all tasks that I was supposed to complete in a day and in rare cases when I do, I don’t feel satisfied. I feel like “oh my God” extra layer of dirt..let me go clean it, “oh my God” I still don’t know pinterest, let me learn how to freaking handle it!! I think I am restless all the time.

    1. It can be crazy-making! There just always seems like a near overwhelming number of things to do and learn.

  2. It helps to have things down on a list and gives a sense of achievement when you tick off one of them. But the flip side is that the list never ends. You tick one off and there are two more on the list.

  3. Ah, I can so relate to the idea of neverending to dos- often dream of simplicity. 365 blog posts would indeed be knackering, and we’d never feel like it was done anyway! Learning too never seems finished, with always another bucketlist task and course on the horizon.

  4. I know the feeling. I kinda have “two lists” one that I have to finish during the day and one that are more long term. I usually get to finish the day one but the Long term stuff gets extended a lot. ? I hope I get to feel that I have nothing I should do either.

  5. I try to make a to-do list and when I accomplish at least one thing I like to think I’m being productive 🙂 It’s too hard to finish everything on the list, so any little bit of accomplishment definitely helps keep me going.

  6. I totally understand this. I have my daily to-do lists that I’m really good at marking off – especially if I keep on top of it. However, I’ve had “finish my first book” on a broad list for almost two years now. I need to start making it part of the daily one. To write so many words per day on it too.

    1. I think that really helps with the big projects — breaking it down into manageable pieces. Otherwise, I’d never even get those big projects started!

  7. What a nice read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Lately I have piled too many things on my “To Do” list and stressed myself out unncessarily. In the end, I moved a lot of them for a later date or cancelled them completed. I schedule all my To Dos into a calendar so I can reschedule them if I run out of time. I also like to see what I have going on during the week and how much free time.

    1. I’m curious if moving my list into an electronic calendar would impact my productivity. Right now, having something in front of me on paper seems to be more of a reminder than something in my phone that I could put away. But I do like the idea of having an archive of what I’ve done, too. hmmmmmm

  8. I really love keeping lists and I also have the issue of not getting things done in a day. I use my planner, as if I do it in my phone I’ll forget. There’s not enough time on some days; I do get a bit frustrated. I’m actually tackling some tasks today that I wrote for SATURDAY!! It happens to the best of us.

    1. You should see the arrows I have on my paper lists! In the end, I’ve moved things so many times, the page looks more like a series of diagrams than a list.

  9. I have never really thought about it or taken notice but you are correct, I have never been able to finish my to do list because I am always adding stuff to it.

    1. I really do have dreams of being able to do it. I think I might just have to be satisfied with finishing the “must dos” instead all the “should and could dos.”

  10. I know how you feel. I always feel my to-do list never ever grows shorter because there’s always something to be completed. But I like your attitude – to take baby steps and celebrate reaching short term goals!

    1. I’d go crazy otherwise. Though I still have my moments of wondering if it is possible if I just try really, really hard. 😉

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