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My Relentless Taskmaster

September 11, 2011 | by Emuna Braverman

The tyranny of To-Do lists.

Help! I’m feeling trapped. My oppressor is a relentless taskmaster, tormenting my waking hours and disturbing my sleep. Whenever I try to settle down this instrument of torture attacks. In the wee hours of the morning (I’m usually available around 4:00 a.m. if anyone wants company!) it pounds away at me relentlessly. Until I finally give in and leave my warm, but no longer comfortable bed to do its bidding.

Who is this cruel taskmaster, this architect of anxiety?

It is my To-Do list.

My To-Do list seems to resemble a scene from Disney’s Fantasia. No matter how quickly I check off items, they are replaced – with even more than I began with. The list overflows like the hapless Mickey Mouse’s buckets of water.

I tried not making a list but that only made the voices in my head scream louder. To preserve my sanity (and that of those around me) I tried to write everything down. That was list was totally and completely overwhelming (you have a similar list, right?) so I sought advice.

My husband, whose interest in the preservation of my sanity is the strongest, suggest that I don’t look at the whole list and just move through each piece slowly and methodically, one at a time. This helped – and dinner is still on the table awaiting him every night (although take-out is sounding very tempting).

But the midnight clamoring persisted. Why aren’t there any offices open at 1 a.m? I have some questions I need answered. Why is shopping the only commercial activity available at that time? And why isn’t everyone else responding to my emails as rapidly as I’m sending them? Don’t they know how busy I am? Don’t they recognize I’m depending on their answers?

My frustration only grew. How can I be efficient if no one else is? I told myself. (Instead of what I really should have said: “You are becoming a little obsessive; have a drink and go to sleep.")

Perhaps I’m jittery from all the coffee I now need to keep my awake (I console myself with the fact that three to five cups a day are supposed to ward off Alzheimer’s) or perhaps it’s just the ongoing tyranny of that To-Do list. Can someone else please go to the dry cleaner’s and the grocery store?

It’s not a time management or organization issue – I could write those books. It’s strictly a numbers game. There’s just a lot to do. And there’s really no one to blame but me. I took on all my responsibilities – gladly. And I am happy about all of them. Really.

There seems to be only one solution. Hire a personal assistant! No, seriously, I mean a deeper, more spiritual solution. I need help. And while I could (and do) delegate where possible, the real assistance I need is more profound. I need to ask the Almighty to give me the energy and the peace of mind required to accomplish my daily tasks. And I need to remember He’s got my back.

By myself, I’m very limited. With His help, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. My mistake has been thinking it’s all on me, that it’s all my responsibility. I can breathe a little easier now. I remembered that I have a partner, that the Almighty and I, we’re in this together. Take that To-Do list!

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