When You Fail Your To Do List

Let me set the scene for you. You have the most perfectly organized to-do list ever. You have the calendar and the sticky notes and the pens and the stickers and the notebooks. You have everything all ready to go. And what happens? You fall flat on your face. Yet again. And you wonder to yourself, what is wrong here? Why can’t I get this right?

It’s true. Sometimes the problem with “getting things done” is your to-do list. My tips for fixing up your to-do list can help with that. However, there comes a time when you have to accept that the problem isn’t with your to-do list, it’s with you.

Success or Failure photo by Chris Potter
Photo by Chris Potter

“Oh my goodness,” you say, “I’m the problem?”

Yes. You are the problem. The problem is you. Think about that for a minute and really let it sink in.

Oh, but wait, do you feel that place where it sinks in far enough to infiltrate your mood? Quit that. Quit it right now. You’re not allowed to let it sink in THAT far. What are you, nuts? That sh*t’s dangerous!


Realizing that the problem lies with you instead of your to-do list is the first step to getting back on track. Now that you’ve done that, we can begin:

Step 1: Let yourself off the hook AKA You aren’t a fish!

This is a big one. No belittling or badgering of yourself allowed! You’re human. You make mistakes just like the rest of us, and sometimes those are big mistakes. But the thing to remember, the thing to tell yourself like a mantra:

This Isn’t Over

There are ALWAYS second chances. You haven’t failed permanently. The horse might seem a little bit taller this time, from your spot on your butt in the mud, but remember that it’s all perspective. In the end, you’re still closer to that damn horse than if you had to crawl across the field.

Step 2: Be more like a cat (still not a fish!)

Think of yourself as a cat. I’ll use my cats as an example. They sometimes need to just loaf around like idiots, and it’s the loafing that sets them up for a proper sleep later. Loafing is what they need right then. Maybe that’s what you need. Maybe you just need to be a loafster for a while. If you think that’s what’s up with you, try to be more like a cat. Loaf yourself.

Step 3: Figure out what’s missing

I’m a big believer that if there’s this much resistance to do something, there’s something missing, whether it’s time or energy or nutrition or medication or physical movement or (insert yours here). Maybe it’s a lack of belief in yourself. Whatever it is, there’s some reason that you’re blocked. No, I don’t necessarily mean creatively blocked (but that can be included here), but just…pathway blocked. It’s like the pathway to get from A to B is blocked. There has to be something that you need that’s causing this issue, so identify what it is and do what you can to provide it to yourself.

Step 4: Find the tree stumps

Don’t let a setback, even a big one, allow you to give up entirely. If you’ve identified the items on your to-do list as truly important (read this blog post if you haven’t), then those things need to be done. They’re important. They’re valuable. For the good of you, your family, your friends, your work, or the world, those things need to be done, so refocus and give it your all. Don’t give up.

And have patience, grasshopper. See this quote from Jim Rohn:

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

This is true for failure, but it’s equally true for success. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep pluggin’. See that lovely horsie there? Wouldn’t it feel great to finally ride that dern stupid-tall pony? Don’t be daunted. Find a damn tree stump and step on up.