To Do or not To Do

January saw me undertaking my latest iteration of my To Do lists; a list of things I want to incorporate into each day of a month.

These include: cycling, jogging, yoga, DIY on my home, learning German, reading books, writing on my blog and playing guitar, as well as trying to rein in the over-indulging in Youtube and Secondlife.

This latest version has been split into two halves; one half for the morning and one for the afternoon. Some items are listed on each half while others might only be listed in one part but carried out in the second – I allow myself some flexibility.

In addition to this I would generally rotate active and non-active tasks, such as cycling followed by some sitting down at the computer, practising some German on Memrise perhaps, followed by some yoga or DIY. This process suits me well, especially on quiet days with little or no work when I might struggle to motivate myself to get on with something or end up sitting at my computer for far too long.

I’ve always felt like I have struggled with motivation, ever since my college years, and especially since I found myself addicted to the internet. My To Do Lists help me, but only so far; if I have down-days, or particularly a few in a row, then seeing the effect on my To Do List doesn’t help me to get out of that ‘funk’. I’m trying to be less hard on myself and instead accepting the waxing and waning of my energy, while at the same time continually trying to push myself.

Another reason for these To Do lists is that I recognised how regimented my school days were, with me always arriving on time and students having a fixed schedule of classes, but how I wasn’t able to maintain such a programme of activities for myself when I started further education, and later self employment, with more free time; when I have clients booked or other things involving others then I am very timely, but anything that is just for myself feels more relaxed and I end up not getting as much done as I’d like. I’ve tried setting myself daily schedules for my days off with no success. My To Do list maintains the flexibility I enjoy whilst helping me to get things do and keep on track with those things.

Now we’re into February…

A look back over January’s completed ‘Challenge’ (as I called it) and I feel happy with my overall effort; there were some down days but I enjoyed using the chart. I was also happy with my lists of To Dos. I also tallied up each day’s completed things, and accepted the ups and downs. Of course, with outside influences, not all days are created (or completed) equally, and my scores for completed tasks ranged from around 3-8 (in line with a long-time accepted maximum for the number of things on a To Do list being 10) and averaging around 5 per day. If I can work harder through the low points and maybe push for some more personal bests of 8+, I should be able to raise my average for daily productivity.

You’ll see some red blocks on the completed chart below; I highlighted these the day before to offer myself some extra persuasion regarding certain tasks that my conscious self wanted to make extra effort with. Sometimes this tactic worked, but not always.

Since overall I liked how this Challenge worked out I’ve repeated the chart for February. I’ll then hopefully see some improvement by the end of this month that I can compare to January’s complete charge.

A word of warning though…

The act of recording our progress or even setting targets doesn’t always mean an improvement will be found, and sometimes can lead to a ‘step’ backwards. On the radio last week a show was talking about these apps that count the number of steps we make in a day and allowing users to set targets. It was noted that this app wasn’t created scientifically, likely just as a bit of fun for people, and research has found that people who have been using them to lose weight have often gone the opposite way compared to those pushing themselves to their own intuitive limits each day; partly this seemed due to people calorie counting and assuming they could just do 5,000 steps and burn off that muffin they just ate. Personally I’ve never been swayed/convinced by so-called fitness apps, but like my To Do lists I accept they can be used to positive reflection while we’re able to meet targets.

We like to see (and feel) progress…

Sometimes progress with things is either too slow, or is too sleight for us to notice. I feel the same with both my German language learning on Memrise where I keep practising the words and phrases I’m supposed to know in order to improve my accuracy before moving on to new words and phrases, and my Yoga practice where I might find certain poses too difficult or my body to stiff for; I keep practicing them with the hope of improving but after some weeks of daily practice I don’t seem to be any better. A similar case is with my cycling where I’ve wanted to increase my average speed slightly.

I watched a video on Youtube recently that talked about how not everyone can make great gains in physical fitness and strength; some people, like Olympians, are those that my great strides, like gaining a significant percentage, but at the other end of the spectrum are those that might put effort in but might see only 2% improvement whilst following the same regime. We’re not all created equal. I don’t like the idea of resigning myself to this latter camp, but that’s how it often feels!


  1. To do anything at all is to make progress: as far as yoga is concerned, as a yoga teacher I would recommend just practising the postures without having an ‘aim’ or ‘goal’ in mind but being content with whatever you are able to do

    • Thanks. I like that mindset. I do practice yoga with the desire to improve but, as you say, that aim is essentially unnecessary since the act of taking part leads to making progress. Often the instructors in the videos I watch will remind me not to force any stretch; relaxing into them is the key.

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