You might have experienced this. You started using to do lists and life was great. Then as time went by, you happily start adding more things to your to do lists but it reached a point where your list so long it gives you anxiety. What happened?
This is a really common problem. Especially when you first start learning how to capture thoughts and put them in your inbox. If you don’t empty your inbox on a regular basis, obviously this list becomes too long up to the point where it might seem like a mountain to climb to get it back to zero.
Another list that has the same issue is the someday / maybe list – popularized by the Getting Things Done methodology. Each day we go through dozens of thoughts of things we could possibly do in the future. Maybe you want to visit the Bahamas, climb Mount Everest or start that side business you’ve always wanted. All these things, among many others, can be stored in your someday / maybe list. But, that list can also reach a point where it becomes too long when you don’t maintain it on a regular basis.
Obviously you shouldn’t get any form of anxiety when you look at your list. If it does then there is a problem. Here are some signs to look for if you think your list is giving you some a form of anxiety:
- You procrastinate looking at your list because you know there is a lot to do.
- You keep on dumping thoughts on your list but you refuse to clear it within a reasonable timeframe.
- You know clearing your inbox will take up a lot of time so you would rather do something else instead.
- Your list has more than 25 items.
If you can recognize any of these then your list is overloaded. I do have to say that the number 25 is a picked guesstimate but from my experience it’s fairly accurate.
What to do about it
Fortunately addressing your overloaded list is an easy thing to do. Here are three things you can do.
1. Empty your inbox on a regular basis. It’s important to regularly clear your lists – especially your inbox. Make it a priority to clear your inbox – set a fixed time to clear your inbox each day. For example, each day at 5pm you will take out ten minutes to clear your inbox.
2. Review on a regular basis. The best way to keep your lists healthy is to maintain them on a regular basis. A review once a week is more than enough for most lists. Aaron likes to do them on Fridays whereas I like to do them on Sundays.
3. Delete anything older than three months. This one can be a tough thing to do but sometimes it is necessary. This goes especially for the someday / maybe list. I’m suggesting here to delete anything older than three months, but you might have to adjust this number for yourself. The basic idea behind is that the fewer choices you have, the better decision you will make and the faster you will act. My mindset behind it as well is that if something is truly important, it will come back on my list one way or another. Experience tells me that this is true.
Do you have list anxiety or do you have any other tips for addressing this? We would love to hear it. Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Photo by puuikibeach.
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