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My Relentless Taskmaster
Mom with a View

My Relentless Taskmaster

The tyranny of To-Do lists.


Help! I’m feeling trapped. My oppressor is a relentless taskmaster, tormenting my waking hours and disturbing my sleep. Whenever I try to settle down this instrument of torture attacks. In the wee hours of the morning (I’m usually available around 4:00 a.m. if anyone wants company!) it pounds away at me relentlessly. Until I finally give in and leave my warm, but no longer comfortable bed to do its bidding.

Who is this cruel taskmaster, this architect of anxiety?

It is my To-Do list.

My To-Do list seems to resemble a scene from Disney’s Fantasia. No matter how quickly I check off items, they are replaced – with even more than I began with. The list overflows like the hapless Mickey Mouse’s buckets of water.

I tried not making a list but that only made the voices in my head scream louder. To preserve my sanity (and that of those around me) I tried to write everything down. That was list was totally and completely overwhelming (you have a similar list, right?) so I sought advice.

My husband, whose interest in the preservation of my sanity is the strongest, suggest that I don’t look at the whole list and just move through each piece slowly and methodically, one at a time. This helped – and dinner is still on the table awaiting him every night (although take-out is sounding very tempting).

But the midnight clamoring persisted. Why aren’t there any offices open at 1 a.m? I have some questions I need answered. Why is shopping the only commercial activity available at that time? And why isn’t everyone else responding to my emails as rapidly as I’m sending them? Don’t they know how busy I am? Don’t they recognize I’m depending on their answers?

My frustration only grew. How can I be efficient if no one else is? I told myself. (Instead of what I really should have said: “You are becoming a little obsessive; have a drink and go to sleep.")

Perhaps I’m jittery from all the coffee I now need to keep my awake (I console myself with the fact that three to five cups a day are supposed to ward off Alzheimer’s) or perhaps it’s just the ongoing tyranny of that To-Do list. Can someone else please go to the dry cleaner’s and the grocery store?

It’s not a time management or organization issue – I could write those books. It’s strictly a numbers game. There’s just a lot to do. And there’s really no one to blame but me. I took on all my responsibilities – gladly. And I am happy about all of them. Really.

There seems to be only one solution. Hire a personal assistant! No, seriously, I mean a deeper, more spiritual solution. I need help. And while I could (and do) delegate where possible, the real assistance I need is more profound. I need to ask the Almighty to give me the energy and the peace of mind required to accomplish my daily tasks. And I need to remember He’s got my back.

By myself, I’m very limited. With His help, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. My mistake has been thinking it’s all on me, that it’s all my responsibility. I can breathe a little easier now. I remembered that I have a partner, that the Almighty and I, we’re in this together. Take that To-Do list!

September 11, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Florence, September 16, 2011 12:06 PM


The problem is that we are focused in my list to do, instead of Hashem´s list!

(4) Lidia Leonard, September 15, 2011 3:20 PM

great partner

Yes, I understand exactly what you said. In my to do list, in order to keep me more focused and less overwhelmed, I broke it down to " immediate to do", "this week" ,and "whenever I get a chance" lists. The problem is though, that I have a hard time checking out the last one- it has become a " pending to do list". I hope the New Year brings us all good health and great energy and wisdom to accomplish everything we need to do, in a successful and happy way. And with H' blessings,all will be possible.

(3) Kochava, September 14, 2011 11:58 PM

Check out Getting Things Done and Remember the Milk!

I feel that way too, but a lot less than I used to. As someone with anxiety, to do lists can both cause anxiety and are the greatest way for me to minimize my anxiety. Personally, I've found the book Getting Things Done to be very helpful in organizing my thoughts and surroundings. I use the website/app Remember the Milk to maintain my lists and create smart lists that tell me what I can do based on where I am (at home, on the phone, etc). As bad as to-do lists can be, I feel that things would be worse without them!

(2) MALKY, September 14, 2011 4:21 PM


Hashem has helped me read this article in the right time. with all my lilsts and lists of what needs to be shopped. cooked and done for yomtov and the kids and the husband and the house im feeling so overwhelmed that i was in tears the last few days. wondering why am i falling apart? why cant i cope like everyone else? what is wrong with me? now bh i have the answer. PRAYER! i forgot to include hashem on my list. to ask him for help and thank for the blessings. thank you Emuna you never fail to uplift and direct me! Shana tova

(1) dinah black, September 13, 2011 11:08 AM


thank you yes, I also gladly and thankfully accepted all these items on my to do list Thank you for a few moments of empathy and for the reminder of Who can really be of assistance. I have been known to daven to Hashem to help me when things get overwhelming, the most memorable moment being years ago, when my baby (I think it was the third with the eldest being three...) woke up crying for the umpteenth time one night when my husband was out. I said very candidly to Hashem "You know that I don't have the energy left to get out of bed yet again and You know that my husband isn't here, so that leaves You...", and my son quieted down and went back to sleep until the morning, having been attended to by Hashem...

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