The terrifying abyss of the Tasks I Said I'd Do

Is there anything I can read that will tell me a short step-by-step series of mental exercises to help me ground myself and plunge into the terrifying abyss of the Tasks I Said I’d Do?

(Crossposted from our Discord where I got helpful responses, thank y’all)

Objective: Put a very explicit 3-minute-or-so routine into my Tiimo for the transition time in-between tasks. e.g. breathing exercise, affirmations, visualization. And then hopefully feel very motivated, clear-headed, and prepared to dive in.


Mentally: Avoidance and anxiety are totally normal in this kind of situation, it’s your lizard brain trying to protect you, except it doesn’t understand we’re talking about tasks and time management instead of lions and tigers and bears. Trying to push anxiety away tends to just make it double down, so having a little dialog with yourself where you’re like “Oh yes, we are feeling very anxious about this. You’re right! It is scary to [respond to that email from three months ago]. Thank you for trying to protect me from [XYZ],” can actually be helpful. And if you’re doing the “OMG we’re so stupid for having agreed to do this thing which we obviously don’t have time for, and now it’s late and they probably hate us and we’re a terrible person” kind of spiral, another thing you can do is try to imagine saying those same things to someone you love, or like, to an 8 year old version of yourself? That can be helpful for me in terms of getting myself to turn off that harsh internal critic.


  1. if looking at the whole list at once is terrifying, make a much shorter list with just one or two things on it, and set aside the big master list for later. Add the next few micro-steps to the task as you go, and then you get to cross off lots of stuff and that’s a little reward in itself
  2. do pomodoros, but start with tiny amounts of time. give yourself a 2 minute task. and then you get it done and you can praise yourself for “look! you did it!”, and then you can work yourself up to larger tasks and larger chunks of time, if your brain can get into it. Or you can just keep going with microtasks, taking little bites out of it. That works too.
  3. if it’s hard to pick something to start with, I really like making a dot list

I’ll do dot lists for things I have to get done, or often even for how I spend my leisure time. I make a long list of all the things I would like to get done (or for leisure time, all the things that i might like to do), and then i start at the top. I put a dot next to the top-most one, and then go down the list making a pair-wise comparison: “would I rather do [this task] before [dotted item]?”. If the answer is “yes”, I put a dot next to it and then keep going down the list, but now comparing to the newly dotted item and so on. When I reach the bottom of the list, I work back up from the bottom, doing the bottom-most dot first, and then the next and the next until I’ve made all the way back up to the top of the list. (You don’t have to finish the item, either. You can just do something toward it, and if it’s not done, then cross it off, and add it back to the bottom of the list).


Try this for the morning
And then try this while you are sleeping

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Not an answer to your question, but if you are like most people you should be explicitly reneging on more tasks.

There are tasks you have said you would do which you will never do. They will never be your most important thing. You want to think you’ll do them, but realistically they are going to sit in your list forever. You need to decide and accept this and let them go, to make your list less daunting. This is hard (if it’s not hard, you are not reneging on enough tasks)


huge ongoing struggle for me, yeah. my latest thing is a private personal github repo called omnitask where i dump all tasks (each one is a gissue) and i freshgish it. taking theo’s advice means that when something bubbles back up for freshening i accept that if i haven’t done it yet i’m not going to, and i should close it. typically i have a hard time accepting that and instead i add some notes or relevant links or something and call it freshened and let it go back in the queue. but at least the overwhelm is less: i’m just beeminding my way through the list at 3 gissues a day.

(i currently have 276 open gissues there so they cycle through every 3 months)