To Do, Or Not To Do?…..That Is The Real Question

How many times have you written a “To Do List” this week?

How many times have you looked at this list and felt like it’s an impossible dream?

How many times have you felt useless because you’ve only ticked off a few items?

How many times have you looked at the list and felt like it’s been taunting you and trying to coax you into doing more than you’re physically able?

How many times has the list been thrown in the rubbish in disgust and despair?


Ok, Enough Questions…Let’s Deal With This “To Do List” Issue

Firstly, I do need to ask one more question. Sorry about that!

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?

We all know when we live with chronic illness, pacing should be our greatest priority. It’s one of our key chronic illness management tools.

As soon as we add item after item to a “to do list”, we start placing undue pressure on ourselves. We set ourselves up for failure.


I Love A List – Always Have

I’m a bit of a “professional” list maker. I always have been since I was a primary school student. My Management career did nothing to break my list making passion. In fact it was one of the keys to my success and my list making behaviour was endorsed.

Imagine the difficulty I faced, of suddenly finding myself in a situation of being diagnosed with a rare disease. A disease that was to become as unpredictable as the weather. Even more unpredictable than that really (if possible!)

I can’t tell from one day to the next if I’ll be able to sit up for 2 hours straight, let alone achieve a list with 3 items on it.

Something I love to do and is considered a good life discipline, is now something that can so quickly become my undoing.


So, To Do Or Not To Do?

Despite the risk of failure, I still say “To Do”.

A list helps you keep tasks on track and is a good organisational tool.

There is a big “however” coming now.

For those of us with Chronic Illness, we need to be realistic about our capabilities. We need to ensure that we don’t do anything that will further compromise our health.

This is actually where a “to do list” has advantages for us if we use it correctly.

So here’s a few of my tips for making a list work with your chronic illness, rather than against it:

  • It doesn’t have to be huge. It can have only one item on it per day. Make it something you really want to achieve. If at the end of the day you can cross off that one item you will get a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.


  • Use Your Phone Calendar. My “To Do List” is on the agenda display in my phone calendar. It makes it easy to juggle tasks around and I can quickly see each morning what I want to achieve and what I need to achieve.


  • Needs versus Wants. I like to itemise the things I really need to do (eg; appointments, cleaning tasks, online food shop, rest time) versus what I want to do (write blog, sort out wardrobe). That way I can ensure I’m prioritising my pacing for the important tasks. If I find I’m having a better health day, I can go ahead and do a “want” task.

Note: I included rest time as a “need to do”. This is so important to physically add to your “to do list” daily. Self care is essential if you want to have a hope of achieving anything else.


  • “Want To Do List Days” are important. It can’t all be about what you have to do. Some days just need to be about fun. Doing things you love. For me that’s writing. It’s something I can do with my physical disability and it’s really important to me. So I make sure I always factor in this want around the tasks I need to do.


You’re The “To Do List” Author

At the end of the day, this is your personal list. You can add and delete items as you like.

You are the author. No one else, apart from maybe your medical team who can sometimes dictate appointment times.

If you decide to change the story for the day because the “plot” needs a re-think , go right ahead. Don’t feel guilty about it either. Listen to your body. Be guided by it.

We need to make life as pleasant and as easy as possible for ourselves. Let’s face it, most days are a physical battle with pain and fatigue and a myriad of other symptoms. Why on earth would we choose to make it any harder with impossible lists.

Make a list, make it short, make it fun and take great glee in ticking off an item.

Remember to celebrate each time you strike an item off a list. Even if the list only had one item you should still throw a little party.

You did it! What an achievement. I hope you’re smiling as I’m smiling for you.

To do or not do to?….

I say……. “To do”, one item at a time, one day at a time.

Take care

Sam xx



If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding & friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.

I’m a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page

I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women


10 thoughts on “To Do, Or Not To Do?…..That Is The Real Question

  1. Sam, I am the same! Card carrying member of the freakishly organized club, he he. I still love a list. And, noting phone calls to make, planning our meals, etc. makes me feel I am being productive. I have no worries about not completing anymore . I use a weekly and monthly calendar book and just move not finished items forward or cross them off completely as no goes. I prioritize health items (bath, range of motion, read, make appointment ) versus wipe down the kitchen counters. Also, since my memory is going, I write reminders as soon as I think of them….order hubs Rx or call Daughter about x. Lastly I now I track my body….swollen knee, ankle or foot, fatigue level on my list. Easier to have my life in one place. When I worked I used a 2 subject notebook, one tab for work to do and one for personal to do. It was a great reference to look back on as I saved the books for about a year. Anyway, I smiled reading this. Hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think once a list maker, always a list maker Marla. I do very much the same as you. Lists actually give us a little sense of control too when our health causes so much to be out of our control.
      Thanks so much for reading & commenting xx 💞


  2. I love a to do list. It comes from my mom, who is a huge list writer.

    I like how you broke this down a lot. It generally echoes how I work.

    I usually make a master list, then sort it (even mentally) into stuff that needs to get done, and when. Then, that leaves the optional stuff.

    I also think about what stuff can be delegated to David if need be too.

    After that, I try to slot in when jobs can be done, leaving wiggle room for stuff to go wrong.

    It’s a whole job itself, but if I do this every week, it keeps me organised and helps reduce my anxiety a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh I love a to do list, the satisfaction of crossing out a job, is so satisfying. I am always writing things down, recording and making lists. Since I got a ‘fit bit’ watch now I am adding 10,000 steps to my list, now that was getting slightly crazy, so I have added an alarm on my watch to tell me to go and rest, maybe we should add that to our to do list? After all, rest will help us achieve those little steps everyday of satisfaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rest is definitely on the list Joanne. It has to be on my “need to” list rather than my “want to” list as my first mode of operation is always to do and then drop. Just not possible anymore I’m afraid.
    Thanks for reading and commenting 💞


  5. I used to be a prolific list writer whilst working full time. Since becoming sick and giving up the daily grind, this list business rarely gets up! I have a rule these days that it’s one major thing a day that I try to do (mostly work related) and I schedule it into my calendar. But even then some days I don’t get to that thing so it gets nudged to the next day, no apologies. I feel like I’ve found my groove these days and just take my cues from how tired my body starts to feel. Then I just stop! It’s a good place to be xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “We need to make life as pleasant and as easy as possible for ourselves” – And yet I’m still guilty of endless lists that cause too much pressure, because I think I *should* be able to do it all. I’m a big fan of splitting tasks up and I’m working on prioritising (rather than lumping everything into the “must do right now” category) and listening to my body because no matter how good you get at being organised and scheduling, sometimes your body just doesn’t want to play ball. Great post!!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

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