Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Conquer the To-Do List

Sandra Orchard here.

I love to make lists. They help me get things done. They help me remember things I eventually want to finish. They help me prioritize tasks and not waste time thinking about what I should do next.

Yet… there are things that have been on my to-do list for weeks, months, okay, years that I never seem to get around to. I know I should break the task down into smaller elements, but… I never get a round to that either.

Instead, for a week year or two, the task might drop off my to-do list, only to come to mind later and be added back onto it.

Here are the top five items I haven’t managed to scratch from my to-do list:

1)   Knit a sampler baby blanket.

I started this self-designed blanket when I was expecting my first child, ur, 28 years ago, to try out all the cool knitting stitches in a knitting guide I’d received for Christmas. Three children and four grandchildren later, it is still warming a spot in the bottom of my knitting bag. I have not knit a single stitch on it in 28 years, yet, I keep thinking maybe one day. With grandbaby #5 due in less than a month, perhaps today should be the day!

2)   Finish 2 cross-stitch projects.

(I started both of these more than 2 decades ago and they are both ridiculously close to being done, yet apparently, oh, so far. Now… I actually picked up one this past winter and purchased the thread I needed to finish the outlining and worked on it, but alas, another pending deadline intruded. Or maybe it was that cool new knight’s costume I knitted for my grandson.) I think there’s a moral here: Don’t start a new craft project until you finish the last one.

3)   Organize photos.

Of course, this shorthand descriptor makes the task sound w-a-a-ay simpler than it is. It should read:
Find all the digital photos taken and downloaded on various computers over the past decade and organize, label, print and put in photo albums.

4)   Clean the basement.

I live in a 110-year-old home, where spiders and mice are regular uninvited visitors and the ever-so-industrious spiders work much faster than we do. Enough said.

5)   Drywall the upstairs bathroom ceiling.

Okay, there’s a legitimate logistical issue here, because although the ceiling is teeny weeny, first it needs to be stripped of plaster and lath. But before I can do that, the attic insulation needs to be shoveled out from on top of it, to keep the loose-fill insulation and I don't want to think about what else from landing on my head. But before I can do that, I need to don a respirator and scrounge up the courage to face the ninety-plus degree heat up there and, oh yeah, the bat we need to evict. 

I guess I should add “evict bat” to the to-do list.

Now that I've hopefully made you feel better about your own to-do list, here are my tips for conquering those stubborn items. 
  • Let it go! (breaking into a Disney song here
  • Delegate
  • Break the task into smaller doable chunks
  • Hire a professional, or for the cash-strapped, trade tasks to work to your strengths
  • Prioritize the essential and eliminate the superfluous

Your Turn: What’s on your to-do list that you never manage to get around to?

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Bat Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


  1. Now I don't feel so bad about the alphabet cross-stitch I started when we were planning for our first baby ... who is now 17. It's a relief to know it's not just me!

    Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Sandra, thanks for sharing with us and giving us a chance to laugh at ourselves ... I started using a ToDo List app a couple of years ago which I dutifully used for about 6 weeks. Since then at the end of each day I tick off the daily ToDos (there are only about 5), most of which I do but some I don't.

    It's all a bit silly. I should just delete the app!

    1. Oh, yeah, I've tried a couple of those apps, but just couldn't get into the habit of using them. There's something about writing it out on a long list and slashing a thick line through it when it's done that is sooo satisfying. Although I do have a longterm "to-do" list in excel for book ideas and half-finished craft projects. :)

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