to-do list

Tame your to-do list with the 4 Bs!

091013 todo list
091013 todo list

We’ve all got to-do lists a mile long. Sometimes something languishes on my to-do list for months.  Or years!  There are just those tasks that I never get around to, and the to-do list starts to feel like a big shame list.  How can it be a week/month/year later and I still have those things on my list?  Ugh. What does your to do list look like?  Does it make you go, “Ugh”?  Then it’s probably not working as well for you as you’d like.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cross things off a list – it feels great!  And I bet you love checking stuff off too. But strangely, as soon as I cross something off, there are three new things to add.  It’s never done.  It’s never empty.  There’s always more to do.  It’s like the little brooms in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice that keep multiplying and multiplying.

So I have some tips for taming that to-do list, since it’s probably not going away.  These come from my mentor, Martha Beck – and she’s one smart cookie!

They’re easy to remember – the Four Bs.

1. Bag it.  This is a really good one.  We have a lot of shoulds – I should go to yoga, I should go to that party, I should should should rearrange the towels in the linen closet.  Sometimes we even tell ourselves we have to.  I have to join that committee.  I have to do this myself so it gets done right.  Actually, you don’t have to do much of anything.  There might be consequences if you don’t, but it’s very freeing to know you don’t have to.  You can choose to.  Choose to join the committee because it’s important to you.  Or bag it and say no, you just don’t have the capacity to do that right now.   You have a choice!  And if you’re sleep deprived like most humans on the planet these days, maybe choose sleep.  I regularly bag all kinds of activities in order to get the rest my body craves.  And so far the world has not exploded because of it.

2. Barter it.  See if you can find someone who loves to do that thing you can’t stand.  This works great both at home and at work.  I do all the dishes, but my husband does all the laundry. I feel like I’m getting a great deal!  Someone else at work might love to organize, and you love to write and edit.  Can you barter certain tasks?  Can you trade?  You can also hire out tasks as well.  If it’s not getting done, and it’s stressing you out, maybe it’s worth it to have someone take care of it for you.

3. Better it.  This is my absolute favorite.  This works for anything.  Face it, there’s a lot of stuff on our to-do lists that we don’t want to bag, and that we haven’t figured out how to barter.  We’re gonna do them ourselves.  So how can we better it?  Think about your task and something you can do before, during or afterward to help you enjoy it more.  Can you play music?  Take a walk in a park before or afterward?  Buy yourself a little treat when you finish the task?  Oh, and here’s the cool thing about treats: Our mind processes all treats about the same.  A treat is a treat.  So a pack of gum or a magazine at the checkout to better your trip to the grocery is just as effective as something much bigger that might cost way more money, like a new pair of shoes.  Lots of small treats all day long are super-great for your brain, and help you stay happy while you’re doing your regular routine.   Take the dogs for a walk.  Enjoy a hot bath.  Play a game with your kids.  Look for ways to make others smile while you’re getting your work done.

4. Batch it.  I love this one too.  This is great for getting a whole lot of similar tasks done, like emails or bills or some other project.  Sometimes it’s helpful to block out a chunk of time and just do it all in one fell swoop.  Take a Saturday morning to straighten your closet. Block out an hour to clear up your desk.  Set a timer.  Avoid distractions. And then reward yourself with a treat when you’re done!

I love to help people with big dreams, but the reality is that most of our daily life is full of regular tasks, so enjoying those and really savoring all the little stuff makes such a difference in our energy levels and then gives us the boost we’re looking for to accomplish something big like writing a novel or changing careers.  So give these simple 4 Bs a try – let me know how you do by emailing me at or leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

Lessons from the Dalai Lama


You know, I put him on my vision board last summer - and then he came to New Orleans this spring and I got to go see him!  That makes me two for two with vision board celebs - Madonna and His Holiness.

In honor of the visit from the Dalai Lama, the city draped itself in Tibetan prayer flags.  They are hanging, large and small, in long rows and tucked in tiny corners everywhere - over shops, homes, along power lines.  They are beautiful and hopeful and I love that people are keeping them up well after his visit.  We have them hung over our porch and I'm in no hurry to take them down.  I think in Tibet they stay up until they disintegrate.


Here's the good stuff I gathered from his talk:

The way to control violence is to control hatred and increase forgiveness and tolerance.

Our individual futures depend on community. We must think as a community-- as a global community.

A calm mind is very important.

When you have affection and compassion, you're happy, regardless of social standing.

Our problems do not stem from lack of education or lack of money, but from lack of inner peace.

Solving the world's problems requires intelligence, willpower and inner peace.

These are simple yet serious ideas.  Interestingly, the Dalai Lama is not a formal, serious man.  He is so down to earth, laughing easily, telling funny stories, encouraging everyone to be happy and be themselves - he is a lovely man.

He came to New Orleans with a group of monks.  There was a big conference and the monks created a very elaborate and very temporary sand mandala.  I never got a great look at the mandala-- my timing was bad-- but I did make it to the ceremony at the Mississippi River where the monks poured some of the sand into the river.  They also handed out tiny bags of the sand - for "healing and enlightenment".


I haven't done anything with the sand yet.  I haven't done anything with a lot of things.  My head swims daily with the long list of undone tasks (like blogging (!), sending newsletters, updating calendars, keeping up with social media, addressing details around a brand new website, announcing cool offerings that I'm cooking up...)  Seems I'm short at times on willpower and that's cutting into my inner peace.

However, in the past weeks, I have prioritized time to grieve.  I've kept all my appointments and attended/hosted all the events that were already scheduled.  I went off for a delicious week of hiking in the woods on the Appalachian Trail (more about that later.) I am meditating every day, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. I have a daily writing practice.  Plenty of other stuff happens too - just like it probably does in your life.

Some day I'll get straight between what I actually do and what I perceive is possible to do in a day. And then I'll have that elusive inner peace.  I'm learning to let myself feel it anyway, even when I haven't accomplished everything I've imagined I would.  The city is so green and there are flowers blooming everywhere.  I stop to admire them on walks to the bank and the library.  I breathe.  The world is too beautiful not to be grateful, completed calendar or not.


And I have a feeling the Dalai Lama isn't worried about my to do list.  He's probably much more interested in the development of my compassion, starting with compassion toward myself. I teach this to my clients and I re-learn it nearly daily.

How about you?  Is there room for you to offer some more compassion for yourself, some forgiveness, some time to calm your mind? To take a couple of breaths, go outside, admire the flowers - marvel at being alive? Whether or not you've accomplished whatever's on that to-do list?

Maybe I could make a zillion dollars creating little pads of to-do lists with the first ones at the top of each page actually saying things like, "Embrace gratitude."  "Smell the flowers."  "Smile."  "Marvel at being alive."  With express directions to do and check them off first.  (Now I can add "design, make and market pads" to my to do list, ha!) I do make myself smile! Are you smiling too?  Then we can both check that off! I bet wherever the Dalai Lama is today, he is also smiling and encouraging others to smile. And perhaps we are all one step closer to inner peace.

Tackling tricky to-dos

Do you ever have something on your to-do list that you really want to do - deep in your heart you want to do it - you just know you do - yet day after day it doesn't get done?  Something you value.  Something you know will make you feel great once it's done.  Something that will benefit you, or someone else. Something that will make your heart feel warm and glow-y.

What the heck?  Why does it sit there, day after day? This task or project - this call to make, this card to send, this blog post to write (ahem!), this creative fun thing you've been dreaming of for weeks - why does it remain on your list - undone, un-checked-off?

Why would you not do it when you really want to?  What's happening?

Well, perhaps you've made it so important in your mind that you've made it difficult to start and finish.  Or maybe it's a task with too many steps - pick the right card, find a stamp, find the address, say the meaningful thing from your heart that you want to say (will you be able to express the contents of your heart clearly enough?), get it out to mail. . .  so it stays undone.

Or maybe it's so easy you keep thinking you'll do it later - it won't take long to make that call, write that blog post - but then you wait and  it's the wrong time in the zone you're calling - it's too early/too late, too close to tomorrow (as in midnight) - so you put it off one more day.

Maybe you finally do it.  And it FEELS SO GOOD to get it done.

So you ask yourself, "Why??  Why can't I remember how fantastic it feels next time this situation happens? Why will I find myself in the exact same boat-- at midnight, looking at a list of happy little tasks, none of which are that complicated, and none of which I did today? Why does my mind toss out the 'doing it later will be fine' line?  Why do I fall for it every time?  How do I ever change?

Hmm.  I can think of a couple of possibilities.

1. Recognize when your mind is lulling you into avoidance.  And when it does, really listen.  Sometimes your mind is making a solid point.  Sometimes you've really loaded up your list - sure they're all cute little lovely tasks, but there are thirty of them!  Come on!  No wonder your mind is encouraging you to take a nap!

2. If it's not because your to do list is overloaded (but I bet that's the reason, I'm just saying) then picture how it's going to feel when the task is done.  Put yourself there, in that brief Nirvana of glowy-heart-ness.  Then set your timer for five minutes and start.  Find the stamp, the address, the card.  Sit down to write.  By the time five minutes are up, you'll be riding the momentum of doing.  You'll easily finish the job now.  Congratulate yourself!  Pat yourself on the back!  And promise that you'll give yourself no more than three other happy little to-do tasks today.  Not thirty.  After all, there's have-to do things too - like taxes, job emails, whatever.  They gotta get done too - and if you're also avoiding them, well-- we'll deal with that in another post!

Now go sit in the grass in the sunshine for a little while.  Buster would approve of that being on your to-do list...