Overdue tasks and stinky cheese.

There is something about looking at my to-do list with all of the old things I never did accomplish. It drains my energy. Does that happen to you? So one day I declared to-do list bankruptcy.

I just deleted them.

Don’t worry, I didn’t delete ALL of them, but at least 80% of them! I had been adding things to my to do list for years.

Of course I would only get my most important things (MITs) done, and the rest would stay on the ‘overdue’ list (I use RememberTheMilk to capture, track, and manage my tasks. I love the tool! The content is another story.)

Every day the overdue list would grow and the original date would get older and older, aging day by day. Even when I didn’t look at it, somehow it would grow – all on it’s own! What is this strange creature, I would think.

What I didn’t realize was just knowing how many items were on the list and overdue created an energy drain for me both mentally and physically. Sometimes it would even keep me from checking my tasks as I would dread opening that list.

Finally, one day I opened the list and I could have sworn it was like opening a very moldy stinky cheese. Seriously. Imagine that block of cheese you got for a holiday gift in December. The one with the name you couldn’t even pronounce? It was stinky even before you let it sit in the back of your fridge.

Now, however, it’s not only stinky with it’s original stench, it has grown a forest of mold and now stinks 10 times as much!

THAT is my overdue task list. Stinky, moldy, with no hope for saving.

So I didn’t – save it, that is. I threw away the stinky moldy stuff. Of course there was a small (very small) bite in the center that was worth saving. I kept that small bite and put it somewhere safe: on today’s list. I ate the small bite and the rest is GONE!

You see, that list had become a constant reminder of what I couldn’t do instead of keeping me moving forward bite by bite on projects and daily business items. Some of the items were my overzealous attempt at creating better habits, some of them were just spur of the moment ideas. Others were tasks that were relevant at the time, but the opportunity had passed.

Now when I add an item to my to-do list I ask myself: Will I care about this 6 months from now? Is this important enough or urgent enough to do right now and NOT put on the list? Sometimes I don’t know the answer so I add it to my list anyway. Sometimes I use the list as an idea capture tool. When I do either of these last two things I make sure I tag the item with #reviewLater so I know I can easily clear out my list on a regular basis. Which I now do – monthly.

Do you have a to-do list that has grown into a stinky moldy block of cheese? Is there anything worth saving? It’s not a bad idea to clean it out every once in a while as it may just be spreading that stinking’ thinkin’ to other areas of your work (hat tip to Zig Ziglar).