Why It's So Hard to Trim Your To-Do List (and How to Make it Easier!)

Why It's So Hard to Trim Your To-Do List (and How to Make it Easier!)

Written by Tracy Stanger. First appeared on www.tracystanger.com

“But Tracy, I literally have to do everything on my to-do list.”

I hear this all the time, and I’m sure it really feels that way...for lots of reasons. These are the big two I see A LOT.

You’re an Obliger

Gretchen Rubin developed a personality framework she calls The Four Tendencies that divides the world into Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Her research shows the majority of the population is Obliger. 

If you’re an Obliger, you might feel great pressure to meet outside expectations, but have a hard time meeting your own. 

If that’s you, you probably subconsciously feel that it’s more important to do all the things than it is to consider how things should be easier on you.

So when you’ve tried to trim your to-do list in the past, you’ve had a hard time cutting things that you think you have to do for someone else, but you’ve easily cut things that are just for you, like rest, self-care, or activities that only you like.

That’s how it’s always been

Even if you’re not an Obliger, it’s easy to get stuck on this idea. Newton’s law of inertia says an object in motion stays in motion. 

You said yes to a task or responsibility once before, so now you just do it by default.  That’s what so-and-so does, so you better do it, too. You’ve taken on all these tasks, so now you just have to figure out how to get it done. 

Big nope to all of that!

So can you really trim things from your to-do list? 

One trick for determining whether something is actually essential to you is to think about whether you would choose that task again if you weren’t already doing it or if you weren’t just trying to meet outside expectations. 

Ask yourself these questions:  


Do you think you need to do this task to meet your own expectations or someone else’s? Are you doing it because you enjoy it, because you know it’s going to make a great impact, because you’re good at it? Or are you just doing it because some “expert” scared you into it?

Obligers can think about how you also deserve your expectations met, or at the very least, how meeting your own wants will help others in the long run (because you can’t pour from an empty cup, right?).

And just because this task works for someone else (build this funnel! use discovery calls to sell!) doesn’t mean you have to do it. 


Does this task directly impact your customers and help you serve them the service you’re literally in business to provide them? 

Obligers, you’re all about helping others right? Don’t waste your time on stuff that isn’t really gonna help!


Do you groan everytime you see this task on your to-do list? Does it take you forever or make you resentful?

Just because you’ve always said yes, someone expects you to do it, or you feel like you should, if you don’t like it, you can totally choose to toss it!

Think of purging your to-do list like cleaning out your closet. You’d look at each item and think about whether you really want to keep it, whether you actually lie to wear it. If you didn’t already own that dress, would you buy it? If you weren’t already used to trying to get that task done, would you sign up for it?