The To Do List Lingerer (TDLL)

We all have one – the task on our to do list that just never seems to go away… the “To Do List Lingerer“.

For one reason or another the To Do List Lingerer (or TDLL) keeps getting pushed back, avoided or forgotten about. Note the key word there is “reason”, there is a reason that task hasn’t been crossed off or ticked off yet, there has to be! What’s yours?

It could be that the task is dauntingly big and you don’t know where to start, or that the task is boring and something you really don’t want to do, or it could be something you’re not sure how to do.

Whatever the reason is that that task is still hanging around there’s a way to tackle it. Here’s how to get rid of that To Do List Lingerer in its various guises:

The Dauntingly Big TDLL

The reason this task sticks around is because it’s just so big it seems you could get lost in it and that it could eat up your valuable time. The solution? Break it down into smaller bite sized chunks.

Q. “What’s the best way to eat an elephant?”

A. “One bite at a time.”

This joke, saying, whatever you want to call, it explains this approach perfectly; if you break down a task into sub-tasks you’re more comfortable with you’ll get that task done eventually. Trust me. Yes instead of one task you’ll now be left with several, but at least these smaller more manageable tasks will actually get done.

The Boring TDLL

This task hangs around because there’s always something more interesting, and therefore more important to do.

So how do you tackle it? Simple.

The next day you’re in the office don’t open your email, don’t brew a coffee and don’t chat with colleagues. Instead do nothing but sit at your desk and work on the task until it’s done. Seriously, don’t stop for a break and don’t try and multitask, just do it! If you remove all distractions and don’t give yourself an excuse it will get done, and it will be so satisfying when you finally get it ticked off.

I try and get the boring tasks done first thing if I can because then your day can only get more and more interesting as it goes on, what could be better than that?

The Undefined TDLL

This tasks stays on your to do list because technically it isn’t, well, a task. Its parameters aren’t defined, it has no clear end or output and so it is never conclusively finished. The way to handle these “tasks” is to never add them to your to do list in the first place! Instead make sure every task you add is clearly explained, has parameters and a finish. Take a look at this example:

An undefined “task” - make sales calls

A defined task – call the first 10 businesses on the current prospect list and speak to the decision maker there to determine the next course of action: follow up, sale or no further action.

See the difference? One just sits there getting you stressed because you’re not doing it, the other is easier to start and easier to finish.


So, take a look at your to do list and see if there are any To Do List Lingerers at the bottom that have been there a while… and get them sorted!


“Write blog post about To Do List Lingerers” …. CHECK.  

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