Put Yourself on Your To-Do List
When you see the words to-do list… What emotion do they elicit?
Do you feel calm, capable, and excited about the work at hand?
Or stressed, overwhelmed, and full of dread?
Unfortunately, many of us have found an enemy in the to-do list. Like it has a tyrannical grip on our day-to-day.
We’ve convinced ourselves that all we need to do is complete the list. As soon as I FINISH my to-do list, I’ll feel good! Everything will be okay!
But here’s the thing about to-do lists: they’re never-ending.
Every email that comes through, every meeting request you receive… EVERYTHING gets dropped onto our to-do list. There is always more to add to it. And with each task added, the anxiety and overwhelm compound.
Why is this? Why can a simple little list cause us so much distress?
Because there is one thing we continuously neglect to put on our own list…
When you push yourself to the bottom of an endless list… You’ll never get to YOU.
But what if you flipped the script, promoted yourself to first-class, and took care of your needs on a consistent basis?
Over time, your relationship to your to-do list will shift significantly.
Instead of fearing the tasks at hand, you’ll feel resourced and ready. Instead of feeling incapable of tackling your list, you’ll feel capable and engaged.
But what would that look like? What would that require?
First things first: take the leap! Put yourself first on your to-do list. Every single day.
That might look like a morning meditation, a yoga flow, some journaling.
Whatever it is, make sure it’s a feel-good habit: something that resources you. Fills you up. Something that has the power to take you from anxiety and overwhelm (what we call the Red Zone), to ease and relaxation (we call that the Green Zone).
The point of this daily practice is to get yourself into a state of mind where things feel easy. You want to feel fired up and ready to tackle whatever you need to tackle.
You’re aiming for a state of mind in which you can tell yourself “I got this!” – and mean it.
It’s important to recognize that this isn’t going to feel good at first.
You’re going to feel guilty about putting your needs above all else on your list. You might feel selfish, or ashamed. This is inevitable.
But this means you’re doing it right!
In this practice, guilt is GOOD. It’s a sign you’re on the right path. It means you’re changing a behavior that does not serve you anymore.
The alternative – what you’re probably feeling right now – would be burnout, anxiety, and chronic overwhelm. You deserve to feel better than that!
But if you feel yourself struggling to push through the guilt of putting yourself first, seek support.
Find someone who will remind you that you’ve put yourself on your list. Someone who will celebrate you for doing so, and push you to follow through.
The most frequently asked question we get about this idea is: How will I know it’s working?
Without a doubt, you will notice a dramatic difference within yourself. You’ll feel more spacious, calm, resourced, and engaged in everything that you do.
Taking care of yourself first expands your capacity for everything that comes next. It makes the work that needs to be done feel way more manageable. It gives you the energy, patience, and clarity to face the rest of the things on your list.
I want to note here that you will, undoubtedly, relapse.
There will be a morning where you panic about what didn’t get done yesterday, and you’ll jump right into your list first thing.
In that moment, have compassion for yourself. Self-prioritization is a journey, not a destination. You can hop back on the train tomorrow!
Over time, the guilt dissipates. It will become second nature to start your day with YOU.