How To Avoid Being A To-Do List Hoarder

Published: August 11, 2010
By: Faye Hollands

Have you ever seen one of those programs about people who hoard things?  Every room in their house looks like a bomb’s gone off, there’s stuff all over the place and they seem incapable of throwing anything away.  Whilst those situations may seem extreme, there’s similar behavior going on in practically every office around us today.  What I’m referring to is ‘to-do list hoarders’ who hang on to tasks for weeks and months on end, and transfer items from one list to another in a desperate hope that they’ll be able to cross them off soon.  Ring any bells?…

Move Away From The Rubbish

Take a look at your to-do list now.  How many items have been sitting on there for more than a week?  month?  or even a year???

How many times have you transferred the same item from one list to another, day after day, feeling frustrating that it’s staring you in the face YET AGAIN?!

And how much ‘stuff’ have you got on your list that’s now well past it’s due date, irrelevant, or purely there to help you remember things that aren’t actually that important?  Now think about the hoarders out there – do you really think you’re any different?

To manage your time smartly and be as productive as possible it’s important to stay focused on the tasks that help contribute to your key goals and objectives. The problem with hoarding to-do list items is that all of the other ‘stuff’ on there that isn’t important can distract you from getting on with the work that you really need to get done.

Just like a regular hoarder would struggle to find things that they need in amongst all the junk they’ve collected, the same goes for your to-do list – it can become hard to focus your mind on what you really need to be doing because of all the other things sitting on your list are grappling for your attention, despite their priorities being completely different.

So what can you do to start spring-cleaning your to-do list and improving your focus and productivity?  Here are a few simple steps that will help you clean out the clutter once and for all:-

  • Chuck out the old: get a fresh piece of paper, transfer ONLY the key tasks on your to-do list that directly contribute to your key goals and CHUCK OUT THE REST.  You need to be ruthless if you truly want to manage your time smartly.
  • Be selective with the things you write on your to-do list: if you truly want to make good use of your time stop using your to-do list as a general memory bank, and instead use it as an action planner that identifies the key tasks you need to get done to help you get closer to your goals.  It’s important that you change the way you use your to-do list so that you reduce the risk of it building up again and causing your more hoarding-problems later on down the track.
  • Assign deadlines: write a deadline down against each to-do list item and schedule time in your diary to get each task done.  It doesn’t matter how little the task is or the amount of time required – when you commit to a specific time you are much more likely to actually get the task done, which means you’ll soon be spending more time ticking off items rather than collecting them!

Letting go of your old to-do list can be tricky when you’ve held on to it for so long, but just like a comfort blanket or dummy, or like the hoarders who have filled their homes with junk, there comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to stand back, have a reality check and let go.  Make today the day you get rid of the old lists, and bring in the new, focused and productive one (singular! …. don’t start creating multiple lists, that’s Extreme Hoarding!).

How many items on your to-do list have you been hanging on to?  Post a comment below and let me know…..

Written by Faye Hollands – Director at Outshine Consulting.

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach and Time Management Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success.  You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

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