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Emails to my Therapist

How To Avoid Mammoth To-Do Lists

Dear Nicholas, I’ve stumbled onto a new tactic that’s helping with head-clearing, when I can bring myself to use it. Rather than collecting lengthy to-do lists with items still not crossed off, I’ve adopted a new mantra: Let’s Take Care of It Now.

I came to this after a writer client took out his checkbook and asked me what he owed me for a few hours of work done in bits and pieces. I said, “Let me figure it out and I’ll let you know.”

He said, “Let’s take care of it now.” So I got out my calculator and went to counting up the small batches of minutes I’d spent.

That sentence of his stuck in my mind.

And Then….

Months later a friend of mind was in a fender-bender. It was the other driver’s fault. She was ready to exchange information with the guy. He said, “Let’s take care of it now.”

The man’s name was the same as that of my client, with a “Junior” attached.  It had to be his son.

Again, that sentence stuck in my mind.

The Burden of To-Do Lists

So now when some little chore presents itself, I strive to keep it off the ponderous to-do lists. Making and maintaining these lists can be a minor obsession in itself. The squinchily written items on scraps and widgens of paper seem to grow in the dark of pockets and pocketbooks.

Instead of hitting the lists, my advice to myself, my goal, is: Let’s Take Care of It Now.

If a to-do doesn’t go on a list, it doesn’t have a chance to burden me.

Moreover, it actually gets done.

A Quicker Route to Freedom

Of course, it’s a challenge. It’s impossible to do everything instantly. And my resolve pretty often weakens.

But when I do get myself to do the onerous little task immediately, I find that it’s remarkably freeing to Take Care of It Now.

(So how do I make myself actually do this a little more often? This isn’t my first post on dumping lists!)





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  • February 14, 2018 at 3:19 pm Reply

    I might have adopted that “lets take care of it now” attitude back when I had my business. I was all business back then; realizing that if I didn’t do “it” in a timely manner, all hell broke loose, affecting many people.

    As a retiree, there is always tomorrow…….lol

    • Peggy Payne
      February 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm Reply

      Sounds like you did “take care of it now,” Kenju. And yes, tomorrow, lol indeed!

  • Amey Miller
    February 14, 2018 at 10:27 pm Reply

    Well this post hits the spot. The problem with taking care of it now as an overarching solution is that I can think of so many things tI’d like to do, so many more than I can or will do in my lifetime. And I also think things that one saves, like those little notes, can relate a lot to creativity, to things in process. There can also be dreaded hoarding, as you point out. Just burden upon burden. And decision making gets more difficult with age! So I propose some kind of dance between the things that are left for tomorrow that you know you may or may not get to, and the things that you are taking care of right now. Sometimes the saved thing becomes right now, like this post from me! Yrs, Amey

    • Peggy Payne
      February 14, 2018 at 10:50 pm Reply

      Happy to hit the spot, Amey. It’s a little unsettling to think about things I’ll never get to. But I’ve started thinking that way more and more. A book has to grab me faster than once was the case– got no time to waste. I’m impressed that you find anything creatively useful about the lists. I’ll rethink mine, but I’m not optimistic about this.

  • February 15, 2018 at 9:11 pm Reply

    One of my wiser and more useful therapists once suggested “Let’s take care of that now”, and when I remember to say it aloud it really helps.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 15, 2018 at 9:32 pm Reply

      Oh, what a wise therapist, Bob! Saying it out loud is a great idea. I’ll take that up. Thanks.

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