UnDoing the To-Do List

by Ginger on April 10, 2012

in Becoming Myself



That whole 2012 To-Do List?

Yeah, that’s not going so well.

Mostly in the things that were in the vein of “do thing x a certain amount/by a certain date.” Because, in looking back, HOLY CRAP was I ambitious on some of those. I mean, REALLY Ginger? There are like 12 items on there that have a weekly or monthly timeline. I must have been insane.

But I’m trying to get better about saying, “This self-imposed thing with this self-imposed deadline isn’t as important as X.” Because part of what I’m learning is that I’m way harder on myself than anyone else (learning? yeah, ok, fine, reinforcing). So I’m trying to get better about accepting that it’s not going to happen and move on.

That’s hard.

Especially when I put it up for the whole world to read.


I’m not a failure because I wasn’t able to write in a journal every day. Or because I’m not cutting it with a weekly vegetarian meal. Or, really anything. Because sometimes there are more important things that come along in life than an arbitrary list of things you created on an arbitrary day some point in the past. Things like getting better or more centered or all around more at peace. And that to-do list? Sometimes that’s the opposite of peace for me.

That’s not to say that I’m completely abandoning my list. But I am trying to think about how to remove the guilt of not accomplishing some of those items so that I can move forward to the ones I CAN accomplish (50 books this year, I’m coming for you). I’m trying to look at it as a growth opportunity instead of a “failure.” And in reframing the way I look at it, I’m hoping I can embrace the parts I CAN do.

There’s nothing wrong with setting personal goals and milestones. But there is something wrong when you berate yourself for not making them.

And I’m trying to stop being my own worst critic. (Maybe that should be on the to-do list).


Cloud April 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Maybe think of them as aspirations and not goals? Take the vegetarian meals thing, for instance. If you increase the frequency- even if you don’t get to 1x/week- isn’t that still a good thing?

I tend to have a BIG list of aspirations, but then I pick out a few to turn into goals at any one time.

However you do it, you are right- you shouldn’t beat yourself up over them. You are doing great. You have a great kid, a good job, an awesome blog (or two, really!) You do a great job of helping to promote your husband’s work, too. So what if your cooking (or whatever else) isn’t what you would have it be in a perfect world? Something had to give, and you flexed where it mattered least, in my opinion.

Christa the BabbyMama April 11, 2012 at 6:38 am

I have a fairly ambitious life to-do list and tend to fail at it because it’s just too much, too big, too scary, etc. But I’m okay with that. I’d rather aim high and fail a little than not aim at all!

Sue April 11, 2012 at 8:31 am

If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t even get it together enough to make a to-do list. I saw a few posts like yours and thought “Ooh, I should do that!” and got about 3 items in and then forgot about it. (ahem…thanks for the reminder) I think at least identifying the things that you’d like to accomplish (whether is happens in a year…5 years…ever…) is an accomplishment!

hollow tree ventures April 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Good for you! Sometimes it can be so hard to recognize when we’re pressuring ourselves to be superhuman, and to remember that being at peace should be up at the top of the to-do list! I’m the same way, with really high expectations for myself, and I need to learn it isn’t a waste of time or the beginnings of turning into a slacker to bump some of my other self imposed tasks and make my mental health a priority. 🙂

ARC April 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

I think when we make those lists, we forget that we’re trying to do all of those things together PLUS live our regular life with work, kids, friends, family, etc. I saw your list and thought “wow, that sure is a lot to take on!”. So go easy on yourself 🙂

Hope April 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

I gave up on this year’s to-do list a long, long time ago. 🙁

Classic NYer April 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I can never stick to a year-long to-do list. I literally have to go day by day and make a list of things accomplishable in twenty four hours. Even so I still end up leaving off half of the list in favor of something more pressing or something that took up way more time than I thought it would. And then I just have to crumple the list and start again tomorrow.

Kate April 14, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Oh – THE To Do list. I have an elastic list – I add things after I get them done just so I can check them off. I re-do the list so I can move things around and “delete” things I don’t want to do anymore. Basically – I don’t think of them as written in stone at all. And, the last two lines of this post were the kicker – they made me laugh out loud. 🙂

Reading (and chickens) April 18, 2012 at 10:25 am

Oh yes, my resolutions list is faltering BADLY. But you know, Anne Lamott says that the only true sin is being cruel to ourselves, and there’s a lot of truth to that.

Elizabeth April 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm

It’s absolutely okay with letting things go–when they start being burdens, what’s the point? Sometimes I like to think of things like that as things I’ll do if an when I remember. Those green smoothies I was going to eat every single day? Yeah. A few times a week will suffice.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: