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When Your To-Do List Makes You Hyperventilate

Need a shift in perspective when it comes to your to-do list? To stop thinking " I have to drive and get groceries." and instead think " I get to do this errand — because we have enough money to purchase provisions and we own a car, so I don’t have to walk. " A Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion from karenehman.comDo you ever scratch out your to-do list, but then are afraid to look at it because there are just so many “to-dos” to get done?

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 (HCSB)

I grabbed my mango-mint iced tea, a spiral notepad and pen and headed to my backyard deck.

Settling myself into a lounge chair, I began to tackle the chore that was before me: writing out my to-do list for the week. Although my notepad was whimsical and my pen was laden with bright purple ink, these organizational objects couldn’t cancel the dread I felt about having to think it through, write it down and then execute the many tasks before me.

My life as a wife, mom, worker, daughter, neighbor, church member and friend brings me much delight. I get to watch my son play football, help my adult daughter look for her first house and work on projects with others that I love and believe in.

However, my life also brings me lots of “to-dos”: Purchases to make. Closets to organize. Paperwork to complete. Phone calls to return. Research to be done. Pots and pans to scrub. Kids to shuttle. Parents to check on. And on and on it goes.

Sometimes — when I get my list all scrawled out on paper — instead of feeling energized with a game plan, my emotions go into panic mode. I’m almost afraid to look at the list since it seems monumental. While most of the tasks in and of themselves aren’t too difficult or time-consuming, when viewed as a whole, they seem like a massive mountain I’ll never be able to scale.

And then, on top of the panic, I also start to pout. My mind starts looping the “poor me” soundtrack that results from just looking at my list.

Poor me … I have to mop the floors.

Poor me … I have paperwork to finish.

Poor me … I have to drive and get groceries.

Poor me … I have to run my son to practice.

Poor me … I have to work on the computer for a few hours to finish this project.

Poor, poor, pitiful me!

Today’s key passage addresses this “poor me” mentality by giving us a fresh perspective as we go about our work: “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men …”

Three words jump up at me as I stop and ponder this verse:

1. Whatever.

Whatever I do. Not just the tasks I enjoy, or the work that brings me recognition or the duties that I find also fun, but WHATEVER I do is to be done …

2. Enthusiastically.

Enthusiastically is defined as “done lively and with great interest; wholeheartedly, sincerely, energetically and earnestly.” Hmmm … I’m not so sure that describes my attitude as I tackle the “whatevers” on my to-do list. How about you?

3. Lord.

It is the Lord himself we are serving as we enthusiastically check off our “whatevers.” Not a husband. Or kids. Not a boss or the committee chairperson. We are serving Jesus Christ Himself as we work.

How about we hit the re-start button when it comes to taking our lists from “to-do” to “It’s done!”? Let’s not panic. Or pout. Rather, let’s loop thoughts through our minds Colossians 3:23 style.

In other words:

I don’t have to clean my house. I get to clean my house — because I have a place to call my own, while many are homeless or displaced. And I am serving the Lord Jesus as I clean.

I don’t have to fill out this team permission slip. I get to fill it out — because my child is healthy enough for physical activity and has caring, volunteer coaches who give of their time. And I am serving the Lord Jesus as I write.

I don’t have to drive and get groceries. I get to do this errand — because we have enough money to purchase provisions and we own a car, so I don’t have to walk. And I am serving the Lord Jesus as I shop.

We don’t have to. We get to. And thanks be to God that we do.

Father, thank You for all the to-dos on my list. Help me always remember that I am working for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


If you’d like more encouragement in the area of tackling your work with enthusiasm, check out my friend Glynnis Whitwer’s book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Everyday.

Need to take your list from "to-do" to "It's done!"? GIVEAWAY of the new book Taming The To-Do List over at karenehman.com

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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  1. I get to work 40 hours per week, or more because I am blessed to have a job and I serve Jesus as I work.
    I get to help on my in-law’s farm, because I am blessed to have a home there and fun new things to do everyday.
    My to-do list feels overwhelming a lot of the time. I think I need Glynnis’ book to help pare it down a little.
    Thank you for this great devotional!

  2. I despise doing the dishes and folding laundry and putting it away, they just are so boring to me. I would love to be able to not procrastinate when doing them to just get them done and over with.

  3. I get to take care of my declining husband. 52 years ago I did not see beyond the years that we would act equally-whatever that is!–in our marriage. Our age is beginning to show up in us both but because of a diagnosis of neuro-vascular dementia my husband has turned over all responsibilities to me–everything–shopping, driving, bookkeeping, housekeeping-everything!! Thank you so much for the reminder that with the Father’s Hand I am selected to be able to do this!!

  4. I procrastinate on grocery shopping and feel stuck in a rut with meals and food fixing. It’s so right, that we always have something to be thankful for! I have a grocery with shelves of food to shop at and we have CHOICES about what we are going to fix and eat. :)

  5. I think cleaning the bathroom is something that makes me whine a little when it’s on my to do list. But really, having to use a dirty, smelly, cold outhouse would be WAY worse than cleaning my pretty, fresh smelling, toasty warm. indoor bathroom. Thank you, God, for what you’ve given me. And thank you Karen for the reminder. ?

  6. Packing lunches!!!!!! I hate it but you’re so right, before long I will not “get” to do that chore any longer. I just sent my oldest daughter off to college and only have one left. I need to change perspective on that “to-do”. Thank you Karen!! I love journals and pens and I hope to win your give away! :)

  7. Finances and budget. My husband works two jobs so I can stay home with the kids so our finances fall on my plate. It can be very overwhelming and feels like I’m never caught up

  8. After a wonderful but busy (read exhausting) season of ministry, I feel like most things are in the “have to” list rather than the “I get to” list. Though I am exhausted and I truthfully want to hide behind the excuses, it’s time for a attitude check and a reminder of why. Thanks for that this morning.

  9. Due to illness and a hectic schedule, getting things done around the house has become difficult and the “To-Do” list has piled up. It’s felt overwhelming, at times, but giving thanks for a nice home and an interesting life are helping me keep things in perspective.

  10. Laundry!!! I have 2 loads waiting for me to fold!! I try to look on the bright side that I have laundry to do, but I get so caught up in it being on my to-do list! Thank you for your post today!

  11. I don’t like to do paper work like paying the bills, responding to government’s letters, and making phone calls. It’s difficult for me to be in the mindset that I “get” to do these tasks, but your latest post and the verse of the day have definitely encouraged me to tackle them with enthusiasm to serve our Lord. Thank you for sharing with us today!

  12. Totally mopping floors and doing dishes. Right now, our dishwasher is broken so it is just a glorified dish drainer at the moment. ;-) You don’t realize how many dishes 5 people make…. Lol! Changing my attitude now! Thank you, Lord, that we have food to even make dirty dishes!

  13. I need help with seeing cleaning in a new perspective. I work from home and when the kids go to school, it’s so easy to just get to work, but then the cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, etc. gets completely pushed to the side. When everyone is home and we can do it together, we don’t. I would love to win this book!

  14. Thank you so much for this. It was needed. I need to change my prospective on my To Do lists. The task that needs my changing the most is the kitchen. I pray that with changing my attitude to a “Get to” attitude, this will start working on the many other tasks on that To Do List with God’s help.

  15. Canning!!! I get to can because I am blessed with a garden and family & friends who give us fruits and vegetables, but it is an overwhelming task that I dread each fall…. At least until it’s done and I see all those colorful jars lined up, beautiful gifts from God for the health of my family…

  16. I was forwarded this devotion to read and it really was a word in due season! I had a major meltdown yesterday as I get overwhelmed with all the to-do’s that come along with life and adjust to my mum having dementia, me having health issues etc. Yesterday I had just had it. Thank you for these reminders that the Lord does ask us to do things wholeheartedly for Him!

  17. My husband works a lot and it’s hard to not feel like I’m a single parent when it comes to our home and raising the children. When I read this post I immediately felt empowered to serve the Lord and saw my daily tasks as a way of worshiping Him joyfully :) And showing my husband how grateful I am for him working so hard. I have a really full day today and I’m actually really looking forward to tackling these tasks and letting God takeover my patience and endurance :) Thank you for this post!

  18. What a shift in perspective. My dreaded to do is housework. It sometimes is pushed to the bottom of my list and after exhausting days I skip it then dread the growing number of things that must be done.

  19. Thank you for sharing this? I too also feel overwhelmed when I sit down to decide what things I would like to accomplish this week. my to-do list gets me very down and frustrated because I cant find enough time in the day to get everything finished. I use to get headaches and make myself sick over trying to get my list accomplished and rushing around the house to appear perfect and like I had it all under control. now I am trying to just spend my time with the lord each day and what I get done is an added bonus. I would love a copy of that book!!

  20. I would love to have Glynnis’ new book! I am currently reading ‘I used to be so organized’ and highlighted Karen’s book title she shared for my “to read” list. My current “dreaded” weekly task is planning the menu/grocery list. Thanks for your help ladies!

  21. Thank you. I have been feeling so overwhelmed lately. To look at things that I get to do not that I have to do is new to me.

  22. This devotion was a beautiful “a-ha” moment for me. My to-do list is my entire life which while it feels overwhelming at times, reading this have me fresh perspective that as/being a child of God, everything that I’m being (t)asked to do is from Him & not only should I be thankful but He has already given me the provisions to handle it or, to get through it. Fact is, I’m so blessed that I’m a walking Malachi 3:10 and there’s nothing to grumble over or dread!

  23. Folding the laundry. It never ends and there always seems to be a basket (or large pile) to fold. I love the idea of praying for the family member whose clothing you’re folding.

  24. I was laid off for six months from my part time job which in that time there were things that happened that I needed to be home for…praise God for the time off. Now that I’m back to work I’m pretty much working full time at what was a part time job..I need to remember when I’m tired and worn out that it’s a blessing to have work to do.

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