No, It’s Not You: Why Your To-do List Ate Chicago

There you are, beavering away. You are being focused, productive. Tasks fall before you like wheat before the sickle. Then you pull out your list (either physically or electronically) and it’s twice as long as before. You scream in frustration and have a brownie.

Aside from the brownie, which should correctly be interpreted as a good thing, you might be tempted to revise your opinion of how productive you’ve been, and downgrade your efforts. This would be a mistake. Because:

Productivity multiplies responsibility.

That is to say, the days you’re being most productive will be the ones that produce the most stuff for you to do. Hercules and the hydra is the model here; cut one head off, two hercules hydramore appear. It’s not in spite of your efforts that your to-do list is lengthening, it’s because of them.

Consider a salient example. We are about to put on the street the latest edition of the Pontificating Potty Post (if you want one, and you so do, email me at chris@iamchrisjones.com). It’s taken some serious work. We’re quite proud of how it’s gone, and we think it will be well received.

At its core, though, the PPP is a piece that builds relationships with our clients of all kinds and stripes. Relationships take time. Therefore, clearing this item from our lists will not reduce them in size. Oh no, if we’ve done our work correctly, it will blow them up like a pufferfish. Most of the work we PufferfishAnatdo here is like that. Most of your work is like that, too.

Next month (two days!) is NaNoWriMo, and as a writer I will have one task: write 50,000 words. When I’ve done that, though, I will then have editing, design, and publishing work to do that I do not have right now. My list will grow. It’s meant to be that way, hard as it is for us to see it.

And to be happy about it. I get that. But next time your list of to-dos threatens to consume all known space, remember – if you weren’t so awesome, it wouldn’t be like that. It’s a tribute to the person you are that your list has done this. Take it like that instead of being unhappy about it.

Once in a while, too, you might have to just KILL the hydra, instead of slicing off its head. But that’s a post for another day. My list is too long to get to it now.

P.S. There is a way, the inimitable Jill points out, to make your to-do list really small, and that is to curl up in a ball and lie there for a couple of days. Much as you might wish to do that, resist. That way madness lies.

P.P.S. Yes, room should be made in this topic for delegation and vacation. But it’s tangential. Don’t get distracted. Focus.

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