A Workaholic’s To Do List: The Problem & Solution

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I love Post-It notes. The feeling of crossing items off of my to do list is addictive.

Sometimes, I’ll even write things down after I accomplish them just to cross them off for the feeling of accomplishment because the accomplishment and feeling of accomplishment don’t go hand-in-hand unless we take a moment to honor it in some way.

While Post-it Notes are great for reminders, grocery lists, and leaving love notes for my wife, I noticed there is problem using Post-It notes for my weekly to do list.

The problem…

I was throwing them away after I crossed everything off. The problem wasn’t the Post-It note itself—it was how I was using them.

I noticed that the moment after I balled up the list I just competed and jump shot it into a nearby bin, I would pull out a blank Post-It, fill it up with some business (and some busy work just so it looked full), and then I would start feel overwhelmed and unaccomplished again.

And the cycle continues…

[SIDE NOTE: Do you notice how the Post-It always has to be full like a buffet plate whether it has one item or 5 items? Having a full plate and being busy makes us feel important.]

Then Friday comes and I would think back on my work week and try to recall what I accomplished and all I would see is a to do list with tons of new un-crossed-off things on it. My recent achievements were being recycled in the trash while I felt depleted.

A workaholic never feels like they have done enough. There is always more work to do.

Instead of that good Friday feeling, that feeling of “I’m fried” looms over me for the weekend knowing how much I have to do next week and makes me dread Monday and that the cycle will never stop. It sucks when you can’t see the finish line.

But I’ve found a simple solution…

Keep my Post-Its somewhere where I can see them like trophies on a shelf as a form of celebration.

It sounds silly right? What I did in the past doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what’s on my plate right now, right?

No. Not for me.

Keeping my to do lists, even if I never really look at them, reminds me that with every Post-It note, I’m building on past successes rather than starting over from zero every Monday.

Have you ever had your computer freeze right after writing the best paragraph of your life and none of it got saved? The anxiety and frustration while the computer reboots is similar. It’s the feeling of starting all over…again. It’s the feeling of running in circles and getting nowhere. In the work world, it’s known as the rat race.

In life and at work, we tend to only celebrate the BIG accomplishments like graduations, weddings, births, closing a deal, or launching a new product. But when we’re doing business (versus busy work), the BIG accomplishments are usually an accumulation and the culmination of all of those small to do list items and Post-It notes.

That to do list item that you didn’t procrastinate on and checked off 3 weeks ago mattered at today’s sales pitch.

Don’t sweat the small stuff when it’s negative. But when it’s positive, celebrate, even if it only took one bead of sweat to achieve it.

P.S. This is not an advertisement for Post-It Notes, but much love to Art Fry, the 3M inner entrepreneur, who gave this simple gift to the world.