My To-Do List Hates Me

Have you ever had that nagging feeling that you’re forgetting to do something? When I was a kid, that nagging feeling was my mother. She constantly reminded me to do stuff around the house like empty the dishwasher, finish my homework and watch my little sister. I felt like it was an endless task of reminders just to keep me busy and out of trouble until bedtime.

But now that I’m living on my own and I don’t have to do things just because my parents “said so” in exchange for a measly allowance, you’d think that I’d have a lot more free time. After all, I can take out the trash whenever I feel like it. And I can also vacuum when I get the urge, instead of as a guarantee to ensure I get dessert.

I remember I couldn’t wait to grow up and be my own boss. I had visions of never scrubbing the broiler pan ever again or cleaning out the garage. Oh, the bliss. Thanks to self-cleaning ovens, scrubbing broiler pans is obsolete. And I don’t have a garage, so problem solved. But I still get that nagging feeling that there are things I must do. Why? Because there are. What haunts me now is my To-Do List.

The To-Do List. That never-ending self-imposed chore list that doesn’t reward me with a bowl of ice cream or five bucks. I quickly learned that doing chores as an adult sucks compared to doing them as a kid. There’s much less appeal because there is no tax-free allowance and no positive words from a proud parent. (sigh…) The realities of being an adult.

Now, my To-Do List hates me. It started innocently enough as I got older. Just jotting down things I wanted to remember. But then somewhere along the way it got out of control and I created a monster. Thanks to modern technology, my To-Do List went from a silent list on a folded piece of scrap paper to the more sophisticated, bulkier Filofax to my incessantly beeping constant companion iPhone. It talks to me more than my best friend.

This was a great advancement from an overstuffed purse point-of-view, where my Filofax was practically giving me back trouble, not to mention the ease of editing my iPhone list without the need of an eraser or Wite-Out. But hearing that obnoxious beep coming from inside my much lighter purse now gives me a panic attack. I’m constantly reminded of what I didn’t get around to doing. My To-Do List is very pessimistic that way. It always seems to look at the glass as half empty.

Here’s where my To-Do List really hates me. It beeps at me all day long every time one of my “to-do’s” pops up in my calendar. And if I’m not doing it, I feel like an instant failure. I can usually suppress these feelings by moving that specific task back a few hours or (dare I say it) to another day. Then I don’t have to see it. But I know it’s looming in my near future just waiting to beep at me again, haunting me like a graveyard cat ready to pounce.

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Did you wash the car?”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Clean the bathroom?”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Pay the cable bill?”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Throw out the rotten pineapple?”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Pumice your feet?

The nagging is incessant. It’s during these overwhelming days with not enough hours that I long for the simplicity of just having to walk the dog, empty the trash and do a page of long division. My future reward was always within reach. That ice cream cone was just waiting for me. Then off to bed I’d go, with a belly full of dessert and happy that my amateur To-Do List was done. What a sense of completion!

Honestly, I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time. Now my To-Do List is infinite. There are always bills to pay, things to be cleaned and dreaded phone calls that must be returned.

My question is, how can I make the best of my List when it kills any desire of wanting to get out of bed in the morning? Sometimes it beeps before my alarm even goes off.

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Run two miles before work.”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Call the landlord about that leaky pipe in the kitchen.”

(Bupbubuppada-BEEP!) “Find a humane way to relocate that ugly spider living in your mailbox.”

Ugh. Shut up already! Let me sleep!

I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with my List, and it makes me want to toss my iPhone out the window. But I won’t because then I’d have to add “Buy new iPhone” to my list, which would now suddenly be demoted to the primitive pen and paper method until I get to the Apple store.

I feel like it’s a conspiracy. But I know it’s my own fault. I realized I tend to put too many things on my list which is impossible to complete in a 24-hour period. My boyfriend calls my lists unrealistic, but I prefer to call them ambitious. Problem is this ambition is killing me. I feel a sense of failure when I see everything I haven’t accomplished at the end of the day. And I can’t help thinking, What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I complete a simple task or ten?

I think it’s because I forget to account for the prep time involved to complete a task. Like if I’m going to wash the car I don’t factor in the drive time. When I go grocery shopping I forget to account for the amount of time I spend browsing in the baking aisle looking for a new gluten-free flour, or imagining the brownies I could bake with the Ghirardelli 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate baking bar.

A quick trip to the supermarket suddenly becomes a time-consuming dream fest of cooking up new healthy dishes as I stand in the middle of aisle seven searching the internet on my iPhone for the necessary ingredients. Two hours and three grocery bags later, I’m finally heading back to my car where it’s been boiling in the sun. After loading in the bags, and putting the eggs and ice cream on the floor of the front seat where they can stay semi-cold with the air-conditioner blasting, I check my To-Do List. I’m giddy with anticipation to cross off “grocery shopping.” My phone alerts me that I’m two chores behind and I’ll never make it to the dry cleaners before they close. Another day feeling incomplete.

Oh well. I press on. I’m going to add “Learn how to allocate my time better” to my To-Do List. Hopefully I won’t push it off to someday far in the future.

The only silver lining in these disappointing failures is that I can still allow myself to have that ice cream for dessert whenever I want. As long as I get home before it turns to soup.