The Never Ending To-do List

Last summer I was asked to serve as the Girl’s Camp Director at church. Knowing that there was a lot of moving pieces and things to plan for camp, well-intended people would often say to me “you must be so busy!”

In the past I would have totally agreed and gone on wallowing in the busyness and the stress and overwhelm it all creates. I could find tons of evidence to prove how busy it is to plan something like that, especially when you have the rest of life going on at the same time. It’s totally understandable that I would feel “busy.”

But this time was different.

I had learned how innocent thoughts (like “I’m so busy”) can actually be really unhelpful. Thinking “I’m so busy” creates the feelings of overwhelm and stress for me. Not helpful. When I feel overwhelmed and stressed, guess what happens? Generally it’s one of two things.

I either:

  1. Run like a crazy person trying to do as much as humanly possible, ending up burned-out, tense, impatient, and un-cared for.


2. I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, so I eat a cookie and check social media. I might even walk around the house doing meaningless tidy-ing (thinking I’m being productive), instead of tackling what really needs my attention.

Neither option has me showing up as my best self.

With option 1, I’m so tunnel-visioned that I can’t see past my own nose. I don’t take the time to shower let alone exercise or plan food that actually feeds my body. I’m not thinking about what my body needs, let along what other people around me might be needing. My body gets tense and I get impatient and resentful.

It’s not how I want to live, but I have found myself there more than I would like to admit.

With option 2, I’m also not taking the best care of myself and not making any real progress because I’m basically escaping and procrastinating. This option generally ends up moving me toward option 1, because if things don’t get done, I’ll have to squeeze it all in later somehow….and now we’re back to option 1.


Option 3, please??

How do we get ourselves to live somewhere in the middle of this Chaos<—->Escape spectrum?

We could try thinking “I’m NOT busy,” but that probably doesn’t seem believable, so we won’t go there.

I decided to think “I have exactly the right amount of time.” Then I had to practice that thought INTENTIONALLY. The default thought continued to be “I’m busy,” (at least for a while). We’re all really good at thinking that thought.

Getting good at the thought “I have exactly the right amount of time” helps me feel  more peaceful. When I feel peaceful, I have better perspective, I make better choices, and I experience life in a peaceful way. It helps me take time for important things (like my health), because I know I have exactly the right amount of time to do everything.

But what about the never-ending to-do list? Here’s three steps for handling it all, as you practice living from peace and perspective:


STEP 1. CHOOSE 2-3 areas from the “LIST” to focus on each day.

We are being realistic and kind, so no more than three. Choose only 1-2 if you have appointments or other calendared items. If you end up doing more, it’s just BONUS!

LET GO of the need to complete everything on the “list” at once. Decide that what you are choosing to do is enough. (It IS.) Negative self-talk never did anyone good.


STEP 2. Pre-plan a small reward or calculated break for doing what you planned to do. (Always have something to look forward to, and tell yourself “GOOD JOB” for doing it!)

Figure out what you enjoy that isn’t edible! Might be sitting down & putting your feet up for 10 mins or standing where you feel the sun on your face.


STEP 3. Be patient with yourself.

It takes practice to learn how to simultaneously be productive and present, enjoying moments and still accomplishing things without feeling rushed. AND It’s totally possible!

Today, if someone says to me “you must be so busy,” I smile and feel love for them, because I know their comment comes from love. Then I simply say, “you’re so kind; I have exactly the right amount of time.”

Either you run the day, or the day runs you.   -Jim Rohn


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