Overwhelmed By Your Time Off? Try Writing a Can-Do List

Time off and To-Do Lists can be paralyzing.

Photo by James McGill on Unsplash

I was looking forward to this Thanksgiving break a lot more than I am now that I’m in it.

I got married in early October of this year, so after all the hubbub, family-ness, and travel of that period, I was really looking forward to hunkering down for the rest of 2019.

I’m privileged to work for a company that gave us both a half-day on Wednesday and a full day off on Black Friday I looked forward to this Thanksgiving break as an opportunity to do all the things I don’t normally prioritize: rest, writing, working on updating my blog, working on my e-course, looking up dog training, exercising, etc. That means I said no to most any travel or get-together plans. Thanksgiving travel? No way. Christmas travel to see family? Already saw ’em. I had “stuff to do.”

And yet, here I am. Doing nothing.

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Doing Too Much

I have a tendency to do too much on any given day. My To-Do Lists are always unsustainable and un-achievable. While I’ve worked on this and done an impressive amount to shorten my daily To-Do list, setting out to do an achievable amount of things continues to be difficult for me.

Therefore, for me and many others, writing a list or “just choosing a few things that can be done” is not a realistic option for me today.

The Reality of Too Much Time

Now here I am, a little into the Thanksgiving holiday, overwhelmed and lonely. I miss my family, and I have more time than I’ve had in a long time to do whatever I want — and it’s paralyzing.

I’m not the kind of person that gives myself a lot of time to relax. And, as much as I’d like to say that I’m excited about all this free time, it’s anxiety-inducing. I start to think about all the things I should do with this time, making an ever-lengthening list and unable to start on anything.

Photo by Author

The Can-Do List

In moments like this, I have to give myself grace rather than keep spinning my wheels. Since my mental well-being is tied to my ability to make progress, I have to give myself something that I can use to move forward — even if I’m only moving forward a few inches.

Instead of emphasizing the things that must be done (the “must” is implied by the “To-Do” part), I have written a Can-Do List.

When I write tasks as things I can do rather than I must do, I regain accountability and control. Suddenly, I’m not looking at this time as something I need to fill with productivity and getting things done.

By seeing my tasks as things I can do, I see more opportunities than things to overcome.

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Here Are The Things I Can Do This Weekend

Doesn’t that already sound more fun? I’m immediately more excited to see where my time will take me.

  1. I can write a new article for my blog and Medium (check!)
  2. I can go to the gym and run on the treadmill
  3. I can meditate
  4. I can reach out to a friend and see how they’re doing
  5. I can call my family and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving
  6. I can design my branding for my blog and social media
  7. I can record my past articles so that they are more accessible on Medium
  8. I can update my Facebook Business Page and finally start inviting people to “Like” it (while that’s still a thing)
  9. I can get ahead on work for my day job so that Monday’s inbox is slimmer
  10. I can catch up on The Crown.
  11. I can write the script for my e-course on Public Speaking
  12. I can take the e-course I got suckered into buying from a well-targeted Facebook Ad
  13. I can get some sleep.
  14. I can go for a walk.

The list goes on. You get the point.

At first glance, my Can-Do List looks a lot like a To-Do List (that’s because it’s the same thing as the To-Do list in my brain with a different title).

But when I read a list of things I can do rather than “should” do, I get to choose where my time goes without the overthinking and disempowering play track.

Photo by Author

Possibility Over Productivity

When I look at this list, I see possibilities. None of them have to be done. None of them will kill me if I don’t do them. No one will notice if I don’t do them. And now, I get to choose my own adventure.

A life of possibility is a lot more fulfilling than a life of requirement. It makes it easier to see this as a list of things I get to do, which then makes me feel more grateful and excited about the luxuries and privileges afforded to me today. Now, I can refocus on the things that I am physically, emotionally, and financially able to do. When I do that, it’s a lot harder to live in fear.

Life is more soft and joyful when I’m focused on possibility. If you find yourself paralyzed, I hope you are able to find your possibilities, too.


This article also appeared on Medium.

4 thoughts on “Overwhelmed By Your Time Off? Try Writing a Can-Do List”

  1. A friend of mine calls this the no-plan plan. He had a plan for everything and a plan for the contingencies of everything and a plan for the contingencies of the contingencies of everything. Finally he gave it all up and adopted, instead, the no-plan plan. Looks like you might be headed this way.

    1. I love that! I don’t think I can quite live a life without a plan, but I can aspire to get closer to that! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I totally understand how possibility can be more attractive than productivity! My least favorite word is “mandatory.” The minute I feel like I must do something, I will revolt! Thanks for encouraging me to allow myself choices.

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