What’s Your Next Move? (And Why Getting Rid of To-Do Lists is So Important)
I stopped making to-do lists a long time ago. Not only because Marie Forleo told me the way I was doing it was no good (see why), but also because I hated them so much that I would avoid looking at them - and then forget the actual important stuff I needed to do (like buy dog food and register my son for Harry Potter summer camp).
Where did my detestation for to-do lists start?
Somewhere around the time I had my second child and was knee-deep into running my publishing business (which meant I was pumping out 2 eBooks a week + marketing + managing an international team + breastfeeding + never sleeping + chasing a two-year-old + … all of the other crazy shit us moms do on the daily to keep these babies - and ourselves - alive)…
I would look at these giant lists with everything I was supposed to that day and feel like I instantly lost. Even if I managed to work uninterrupted from 6am to midnight, there was no way I could ever get it all done.
And, of course, that was just the business to-do list. At one point, I was navigating three separate lists (business, home, family) and beating myself up about not getting to it all on the daily.
These to-do lists, however, were the only way I knew how to keep track of everything that really needed to be done. I was afraid that if I let the to-do lists go, shit would hit the proverbial fan. And I would be left standing with a failing business, screaming babies, and a husband that hadn’t seen my breasts in weeks.
So, I did what most women do and I shoved my emotions down. I beat myself up quietly when no one was looking. I cried on the floor of our two-bedroom apartment just wondering when all of the work, all of the to-doing, would finally end.
And, after several months of this never winning post-it note hell, I gave up.
I sold that business and gave up the dream of being an entrepreneur. I packed up my family (somewhat willingly) and moved us to Colorado in search of a “normal” job and a “normal” life.
And, let me tell you, that normal life sucked.
I hated sitting at a desk when I didn’t have work to do. I hated reporting at a certain time each day and quietly sneaking out the back door an hour before I was supposed to leave because I couldn’t take the monotony any longer.
I guess once you’ve become an entrepreneur there really is no going back.
My family and I moved back to New Mexico and, now pregnant with my third child, I knew I had to figure out another way to manage the day-to-day that comes with being married, having kids, and running a business.
Knowing to-do lists were a no-win zone but needing a way to keep track of what needed to get done, I started implementing a “Top 5” list. I still kept longer to-do lists, but I only looked at them when I needed to. And, when I did, I chose only five things to try to tackle each day - and I made sure that it was a manageable chunk of work. Instead of having three separate lists of the “Top 5” things to do (which would have started to feel impossible again), I put it altogether, knowing that some days would be more work-heavy and other days would be more focused on my family and home.
Suddenly everything changed.
I was ending each day feeling good about what I got done. Instead of torturing myself about what was still left to complete, I celebrated about the steps I was taking to get closer to my goals (no matter how small they might be).
Two years in, I’m less stressed, more organized, and more successful than ever.
The other day I came across a Jen Hatmaker podcast episode (For the Love) with Emily P. Freeman talking about the idea of “the next right thing”. (If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and listen right now.) Freeman, who has written a book with that exact title, is a genius when it comes to “uncluttering your soul”, which is exactly what this feels like. Rather than only looking at the big picture and each and every step (or to-do) you have to get there, just focus on “the next right thing”.
For me, this is exactly how I make my Top 5 list each day. And, to be honest, some days my list looks like this:
1. Take a shower
2. Go grocery shopping
3. Move your body outside
4. Write a blog post
5. Call Mom
Of course, there are other days when I tackle a lot of serious shit. But, no matter what, I feel like what I’m doing really is the next best move.
Not sure how to find your next best move?
I spend several minutes each day meditating, breathing deeply in silence, to help get clear. There are a ton of different ways to “get clear”, but this video is one of my favorites if you’re looking for a little guidance:
So, consider this your official permission slip to tear up that never-ending to-do list and to get focused on the next right thing instead. I promise, you’ll feel so much better - and you’ll have a lot more fun, too.