My Life as One Big To-Do List: My Love/Hate Relationship With Making Lists

List making has been a strategy I have used to cope with my stress for many years now. Here is my list about list making.

     1. My history with list making

Ever since I was young, probably starting in middle school, I realized I was an extremely stressed-out person. Whether it was exams in school, drama in my friend group, auditions/try-outs, I had a bad habit of overthinking and stressing myself out. However, recognizing this not-so-positive trait at a young age led to me coping with it at a young age.

And how did I learn to deal with my stress? By making lists.

Lists for my future, lists for my plans for the summer, lists for finals weeks, lists for Monday, even lists to make my lists. It was never ending...but, yeah, it helped with my stress. By writing out what I had to get done, or what I wanted to accomplish, I was able to map out my busy schedule in a way that didn’t make it seem as scary, and turn it into something attainable

     2. Personal issues with lists

Today, I am still an avid to-do list maker. Give me a pad of paper and some colored pens, and I can crank out a pretty organized list. Sitting in my room right now, I see five lists in front of me. One for the month of May, one with my class schedule, one for just this week, one specifically for today, and one planning out tomorrow. Granted, finals are approaching, and my stress is more elevated than a normal week, but still, my desk is usually filled with at least two to three lists on a common day. Most of the time, they help me with my stress; yet, ironically, the confinement they induce can also become a source of my stress. Not completing my daily list, needing to add to my list, not having time to make a list. It all sounds kind of like a joke, but at times I feel like my lists do more harm than good.

Woman with planner Photo by Paico Official from Unsplash

      3. My thoughts as a mental list

Additionally, because I am always writing out the next thing I have to do, my to-do lists are always on my mind. I go through each time of the day, what I have to get done, when I have some free time, all the while balancing schoolwork, socializing, working out, eating, and personal time. I find myself constantly imagining my next step on my to-do list. At times, my life feels so structured, so much so, that if something alters my mental to-do list, my whole schedule gets messed up. 

     4. Breaking free from the list

Realizing that making lists helps me cope with stress was a good thing for me. However, I think realizing that sometimes making too many lists doesn’t benefit me was even better. I don’t want to constantly be thinking about the next thing to check off my to-do list, or planning my upcoming week every Sunday night. Sometimes, I want to see what happens when I don’t make a plan. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be able to give up lists altogether, but I am going to try and cut down on them. 

todo list Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production from Unsplash

     5. List for the summer: make fewer lists.

...

Here I am, finishing off yet another list, except I’m hoping this will be the last one for a little while.