There’s nothing like the satisfaction of completing your to-do list for the day, right?
Or am I wrong?
I will be the first to admit that I’m a type A personality. I am naturally driven, and I love getting things done.
If that describes you as well, then this truth probably applies to you as much as it does to me:
It’s really easy to wrap up way too much of your happiness or identity in your to-do list.
A lot of us hold productivity in such high regard that it actually takes on idol status, but we often have no clue things have gone too far.
As a life coach, I am all for purposeful productivity and getting things done, just like I am all for Christians building wealth, Christians being health nuts, etc.
However, any good thing can take on an extreme where it turns from glorifying God to idolatry. If you subscribe to the Ten Commandments, that’s straight-up sin. (Whoa, this blog post just got real, I know. But I have to be straight with you because I see so many people who are just like me.)
I’ve been guilty of this to-do list idolatry too many times in my life, especially a few years ago before I experienced a huge turning point.
Friend, if I’ve got you thinking and you’re ready to examine yourself a bit,
Here are some potential warning signs that your to-do list might be taking idol status in your life:
- You think about the stuff you have to get done and what’s on your list more than you think about God.
- You judge yourself by how much you get accomplished. In other words, you place identity in your productivity, either puffing yourself up or heaping guilt on yourself.
- The number of things you get done in a day strongly correlates with your mood, positive or negative.
- You aren’t making much time for God on a daily basis because you’ve got too much to get done.
- You take your to-do list with you everywhere, but your Bible just sits on the shelf.
- You talk a lot about how busy you are, how much you need to get done, how much you got done, etc.
- You go to bed thinking about your to-dos and wake up thinking about them as well.
- You believe, consciously or unconsciously, that you must get everything done or . . . (insert catastrophic-seeming event here) will happen.
- You think that you have to do it all because you believe, probably unknowingly, that the world rests on your shoulders instead of God’s.
- You long for the day when you’re caught up because you feel like then you’ll be able to relax or enjoy life or make time for the things that matter.
Do any of these sound like you?
Don’t beat yourself up; you are not alone. I’m guilty of all of these in my past and even sometimes in the present.
Better yet, there is grace and forgiveness and second chances for sinners like you and me—for us Christians who get our priorities goofed up and let good things knock the ultimate thing—God—off the throne in our hearts.
Here are a few suggestions to try out to loosen your grip on your to-do list (from a recovering to-do list idolater):
- Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t get this done? Is it really that bad? And what’s the likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening anyway?”
- Consider why certain things are on your to-do list and consider the trade-offs of doing that thing. I always tell this story of how I was driving down the street one day watching a woman put spiderweb decorations on her bushes for Halloween. In that moment, I thought, “How many things like this are we doing in life that we really don’t have to do, and yet we complain about how we don’t have time for God or for volunteering at church or for reading Bible stories to our kids?” I know, that’s kind of a ridiculous example, but the truth is that everything you spend time on is time you therefore cannot spend on something else. Choose what makes it onto your to-do list wisely! (You have my permission to go get your list right now and cross off a bunch of things without even doing them.)
- Get things out of your head. Yes, this makes your to-do list longer, but it decreases the number of “tabs” open in your brain. Trying to focus on what’s most important when you’ve got 34 tabs open on your Internet browser doesn’t go well, and it’s the same way with the tabs in your brain when you’re trying to focus on what matters in life. I keep a notebook next to the chair that I use during my quiet time with God that is specifically so I can write down stuff that pops into my head while I’m reading the Word—things to add to the grocery list, someone I remembered I need to text, etc. I get it out of my head so I can get back to focusing on what I was doing. I’ve gotten so good at getting stuff out of my head that I have an almost scary ability now to shut off the productive part of my brain whenever I want to.
- Get closer to the Lord. I know, that sounds cliché and obvious, but the more I learn about God, the more I remember truths such as: (a) He’s already done it all—Did he not say on the cross, “It is finished”? That “it” was the most important thing in the history of the galaxy—our salvation. (b) He’s totally in control, and he never sleeps. (c) My status is not in how much I get done. (d) God craves a relationship with me more than he desires me to hustle myself to death.
Hey, if this post resonated with you, we need to talk. In fact, I’ve got a great idea for you . . . it’s my group coaching program called Bold, Intentional Life, open for enrollment for just a few more days! This 8-week program is for go-getter Christian chicks who want to design a life around what (really) matters most. We’re going to learn how to use your to-do list for good and to kick to-do list overwhelm to the curb, among many other things that you can read about here. Check it out!
If you want to chat with me personally about the program and whether it’d be a good fit for you, I’m offering a limited number of free, 15-minute phone calls with me over the next few days; choose your time and save your spot here.
This blog post originally appeared on the Time of Grace blog.