The New “To-Do List” for Entrepreneurs

Boxes you’ll be excited to check off


Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 4 min read

Kristen Bell says she has long-ago dispensed with to-do lists. She said she gave them up because she always put more stuff on there than she could reasonably get done. So she ended every day feeling like a failure.

This woman, who is by all indications extremely sensitive if not a full-blown empath, suffers from anxiety and perfectionism- two things I can relate to intimately. I thought, “if this system worked for her, maybe it will work for me.”

So for awhile I followed her lead and stopped making to-do lists. I have no shortage of motivation, and I figured that with this new system the most important tasks would bubble to the surface, and I’d always be spending my time on necessary things.

I bumped along ok for awhile. I definitely felt less anxiety. But once and awhile small things would fall through the cracks or get pushed off, and, as anyone tending to a start-up can tell you, this isn’t the greatest way to grow your brand.

Then one day I woke up early. I’d committed myself to 6:30AM crossfit, and I was determined to follow through. The result was that I was sitting, fully energized, in front of my computer by 7:45 AM, a time I am normally rolling out of bed.

The day ahead was a work day (I protect at least one day each week to get deep into my long-term projects), and I wanted to know what to do first.

It was early morning, a time of infinite possibility. I wanted to harness this feeling of freshness and aliveness. So, instead of opening emails, I sat back, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and asked my business, “what do you want from me today?”

I sat quietly for about five minutes, stilling my brain. Presently, ideas began to bubble to the surface. The answers were a mix of the quotidian and the divine, and were certainly different from any to-do list I’d ever created before.

Here’s what my business told me it wanted from me that day:

  • Pay the debts you can.
  • Reach out. Let people know what you’re up to.
  • Get outside.
  • Eat well.
  • Expose yourself to new thinking.
  • Don’t give up on the beauty you’ve built.

I started at the top, making sure I took care of some financials I’d been putting off. But I also thought that message could refer to spiritual debt as well- a good reminder to forgive who you can, when you can.

Next on the list was “reach out.” Upon reflection, I realized it’d been months since I sent an email campaign to my contacts.

Oddly enough, the day before a friend had dropped off a wallet, thick with business cards I’d been collecting over the past year (I’d accidentally left it at his house). I added the contacts to my list (which more than doubled in size), and sent out a notice about a new Workplace Wellness survey I’d created from my research on burnout. Within minutes someone responded, saying they’d be interested in hearing more about it.

Over the course of the day I duly and joyfully checked off boxes. I got outside for a walk. I took a little extra care making myself lunch. I attended a women’s meeting that night and got to have meaningful conversations with creative, empathetic, introspective peers.

Then I came to the last box to check. “Don’t give up on the beauty you’ve built.”

I’d been struggling with a difficult decision on a community project I’d created for leadership in our valley. Earlier, I’d brought the project to some collaborators, and I immediately saw the energy shift from, “how can this help the community” to, “how can we use this as a marketing tool to benefit us.” The project started taking shape in strange ways that I’d never intended.

I realized this last message was an injunction to take the project back and restore it to its original integrity: as a resource to create a new community and help people love their jobs.

I’d been going along with the new plan laid out by my collaborators, trying to justify it, but the whole time I knew it was being warped: the animating spirit changing from generosity to greed.

My way was suddenly and irrevocably clear.

I also saw this last message as a little nudge of hope. It reminded me that the work I’m doing in the world is good and whole and aligned with my deepest self. It was a reminder not to fear, but to keep making the decisions I knew to be right even if they were difficult. Even if they rendered the future uncertain. Even if they pissed people off.

All in all, it was the best day I’d had in a long time. Even some lady at the checkout counter looked at me and said, “your skin is glowing!” I tried to tell her that passion is better than any cold cream on the market. She nodded. I think she got it.

I urge you to try this. Tomorrow morning (or right now) close your computer. Sit back and breathe deeply. bring to the surface that heady feeling- a mixture of love, gratitude, and excitement. Imagine you get to spend the rest of your life doing meaningful work. Still your thoughts.

And ask your life, “what do you need from me today?”

This article was originally published by Dr. Kate Newburgh on medium.


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