The Tao of “To Do” Lists

It’s 7:13 p.m. on Labor Day. The three-day weekend draws to a close and I’m just sitting down to write this week’s post.

Saturday, I rested. Or at least I rested as much as I ever allow myself to rest. I ran an errand at Union Square, checked out the Hester Street Fair, went to the gym, played with our neighbor’s Yorkie (we’re dog sitting) and watched Netflix.

I had a “to do” list (TDL) with a half dozen tasks to check off on Sunday. But I didn’t feel well, so I spent most of the day in bed. When a friend texted to find out how I was, I told her that I was sick and that I was feeling guilty for not accomplishing the tasks on my TDL. She replied that she used to use TDL’s, but that she was much happier since she gave them up. I stared at my cellphone’s screen and shook my head. Giving up TDL’s may have been liberating for her, but I simply couldn’t imagine functioning in the world without one.

This morning I woke up feeling great. I was delighted, not only because I felt better, but because I would be able to accomplish some of the tasks on my list. This weekend’s list was electronic, saved in Google Keep so I could access it on my computer or my phone. I usually write my weekend TDL’s on a pretty little notepad with To Do written on the top of each page. At work, I jot them on a dated page in my notebook so I can flip back and see when I completed a particular task.

I have been a project manager for many years. I’m sure that there are kids that dream of becoming project managers when they grow up, but I wasn’t one of them. It’s a role that I fell into. Fortunately, it’s one that I excelled at. Breaking projects into manageable steps, placing those steps on a timeline, assigning them to the right people, managing those people “without authority” in order to get the steps accomplished… This was almost effortless for me. I gained a reputation as a “can do” person, someone who “got s&#t done.”


Because it was in my nature.

A few years ago, my father sent me some letters that my mother wrote to my grandmother when I was a small child. A recurring theme was how I bossed my brother, who was two years younger, around. I had no real authority over my little brother, but I assumed it, because it was in my nature.

I am hardly an expert on Taoism. I’ve only read a couple of books on the topic, and one of them was The Tao of Pooh. But it’s my understanding that one of its central tenets is to accept — even embrace — one’s nature. It is the nature of the river to flow, the nature of the rocks to eroded and the nature of the banks to flood. Wishing those things to be different won’t change their nature. Clearly, being bossy and organized aren’t the only aspects of my nature. But I accept them and leverage them to my advantage, in my professional and personal life.

Which is all to say that, while I don’t use project management software to manage my personal life, I will continue to use TDL’s. They help me to prioritize what needs to be done and ensure that I actually accomplish them in a timely manner.

Things like this blog post, which I’m checking off my TDL…now. check mark


6 thoughts on “The Tao of “To Do” Lists

  1. Soul Gifts

    I only use TDL’s when it’s an absolute necessity! Mine mainly sit in my head, although I seem to be having more ‘senior’s moments’ so logging in to check can be a bit challenging 🙂 I figure it’s good mental exercise!


    1. Judie Sigdel

      I hear you about those senior moments! More and more frequently, I forget what I sat down to add to my list! Memorizing your list is, indeed a good mental exercise.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Annaleah

    That organized, bossy kid is my eldest. I tell her when she’s an adult, she’ll be going places, but for now, she doesn’t get to play mommy to the younger 2.

    She doesn’t get that from me, btw. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judie Sigdel

      OMG, this really made me smile. I love that you appreciate these qualities in her AND you are able to draw boundaries that will help you both!


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