Mindfulness: the solution to endless to-do lists

Work. Sleep. Repeat. It’s a never ending cycle that needs to be stopped.

I’ll admit it. I’m a workaholic. I spend most of the week doing two things: working and thinking about what to work on next.

I primarily credit my workaholic mentality to my fear of being viewed as a “slacker;” however, I think the satisfaction from completing tasks is a close second. 

When I’m not working, I’m creating to-do lists for what I need to complete next. The endless worry of what comes next is exhausting, but to-do lists help me organize my thoughts.They’re a useful tool, and nothing is more satisfying than checking something off your to-do list.

Lately, however, I’ve come across a problem with to-do lists. My to-do list seems to never end. With every task I complete, there is another one lurking at the tip of the pen. I just can’t catch a break because there’s always something that needs to get done. 

How do you break this never ending cycle? The answer I’ve come across is mindfulness.

An online reference article published on “Psychology Today” defines mindfulness as “A state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.”

By allowing oneself to live mindfully, you can better focus on the present rather than the past or future. This leads to a greater peace of mind. 

Even though the idea of mindfulness has recently become more widespread, it is not a new concept. According to a reference article published on the “Psychology Today” website, mindfulness originates from Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Its foundations are rooted in treating pain, anxiety and stress.

Mindfulness does not get rid of your to-do lists, but it does provide a coping mechanism to survive your never ending to-do lists. Being mindful in your day to day activities, makes your tasks more enjoyable and mitigates complete mental breakdowns. Below are a few ways to be more mindful in your daily life, based on Maša Ofei’s blog “The Minimalist Vegan.” She lists several ways to be more mindful in your daily life, but I included the three most useful ways based on my personal experiences.

  • Change Your Mindset: Instead of viewing a task as “I have to,” view it as “I get to.” This allows you to view the task as an opportunity rather than another chore. By changing your perspective, you can begin a task with a more positive mindset. 
  • Prioritize Your List: There’s not enough time in a day to finish everything on your to-do list. Instead of stressing about completing everything, think about the tasks that will help you move forward, and complete those first. In her blog post, Ofei cites Gary Keller, an American best-selling author. His book “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” provides a great question to ponder, “What’s one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
  • Practice Saying “No”: When your to-do list is full of tasks for other people, it feels as if you’re not in control of your time. Instead of inducing additive stress, take control of your to-do list. Know when to say “no.” 

If your to-do list is weighing you down, I encourage you to try being more mindful. Mindfulness is challenging to achieve, but it’s rewarding in the long run.