Organizing Your Life around YOU: How to Scale Down Your Task List

To-Do List
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Have you ever found yourself doing something (or afraid to do something) more because you’re worried about what other people will think than because of what your intuition is telling you to do? 

How much time do you spend to make sure “everybody” isn’t judging you versus the time you spend doing the things that make you truly happy? This isn’t just about the big stuff—this is the stuff we do every day.

I talked to Theresa Sullivan, a professional coach and the founder of Wayfinder Advisors, who specializes in helping people “escape from convention and step into their life that aligns with their values, talents, and passion.”

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I asked Theresa for an exercise we could all do to gauge the focus of our activities and whether we are doing things for ourselves or for the external voices around us. Here is what she suggests:

 1. Choose five things on your task list.

 2. For each item on your list, ask two questions:

  • Do you HAVE to do it?
  • Do you WANT to do it? 

If you are not sure if you want to do it, imagine yourself doing what it is, and if you feel happy, energized, or light, YOU want to. If it feels confining, dreadful, or boring, you don’t want to!

3. For any to-dos that you want to do, proceed. If they pass the test above, chances are these items feed you and nurture you, and you are doing them for yourself.

4. For those tasks you don’t want to do AND don’t have to do, this is a no brainer. Cross them off the list! They don’t serve you. Life is too short to spend your time on these things!

5. So that leaves the “Have To Dos” but don’t “Want to Do.” There are few ways to deal with these guys in a way that honors you and doesn’t make you a martyr.

  • Think about what would happen if you didn’t do this thing you HAVE to do. Are you the only person affected, or are there others? If it is a commitment you made, but the effort to do it is more than the benefit you or any dependents you have will gain, question whether you really HAVE to and go back to #4.
  • If you really have to (e.g. grocery shopping), can someone else do it instead? Can your partner help? Your children or a friend? Give the task to someone else who may WANT to do it. 
  • If it has to be you (e.g., medical exam), then give yourself a reward once you’ve accomplished the task. You deserve it, and it will put you in the mindset of staying true and kind to yourself.

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Give this a try with your task list. Did it make room for activities that are fulfilling to you? Let us know your results! For more tips, check out Wayfinder Advisors’ Facebook page.

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Organizing Your Life around YOU: How to Scale Down Your Task List

Tracy Jensen is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. A working, single mom of two kids ages six and five, she is notorious for doing things the hard way. In addition to writing for EverydayFamily, she survives suburban exile by blogging about life’s foibles at It Builds Character. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter. ... More

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