Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

I’ve decided to stop making to-do lists, as it has become clear that they are evil purveyors of my daily failures.

I used to cherish to-do lists; in particular, the complete satisfaction I gained from checking things off my list. Ah, the CHECK!. My boss used to make fun of me because I would draw small squares before each to-do item, specifically for my CHECK!. I would sometimes even add things to my to-do list after I had completed them, just so I could give myself that CHECK!.

But now, those once-beloved to-do lists have turned against me. Now, my to-do lists have turned into a daily accounting of Things I Didn’t Do Yet Again and People I’ve Disappointed Once More and Ways That I Suck As A Mother/Employee/Person. I mean, some days nary a thing gets a CHECK! which could lead one to believe that I do nothing all day but stare at the wall and that makes me want to defend myself and my worthiness as a person. Which is quite awkward, really, since I’m the one that made the list in the first place. I’ve been known on such days to re-copy my to-do list, in its entirety, on a fresh sheet of paper, sometimes even adding multiple colors and stars and highlights, in the futile hope that the re-writing of the list itself will make the accomplishing of the items on the list that much more possible.  The promise of a new (exact same) list for a new day!

And so I’ve decided to abandon them, nasty little things.

Okay. I understand that I can’t really abandon them.  How would I remember to return the email, submit the budget, write the report? Get the birthday present, write the will, bake the cookies, water the lawn, conduct the interview, turn in the credit card statement? Cook the dinner, wash the car, hold the meeting, read to the kids, learn the second language, lose the weight, make the phone call, donate the clothes, take the daughter to dance class, prepare for the holidays? Coach the employee, get the haircut, write the lesson, check the news, take the son to get his shots, hold the training, read the article, re-connect with the old friend, fix the screen door, pay the bills? Plan the party? Invent a new something or other?  Do that really important friend/wife/mother/daughter thing? Complete all the other items that Must Be Accomplished Now?!

No, I can’t abandon the to-do list.  Instead, I must come to terms with the fact that the little squares that house the CHECK! are not the important part, and that the list will never actually be finished. I must remind myself that the most important part is the actual interaction with all the things that make up my day — the interactions themselves, and not their appearance on the list. All those interactions, the stuff that fills my days, the stuff that can best just be summed up as “life”… well, those are actually the best kind of CHECK! there is.

Are you CHECK!ing what’s most important?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.