How to Cure To-Do List Panic - Chris McCombs
Chris McCombs

How to Cure To-Do List Panic


list-h600I rolled out of bed with panic running wild through my blood.

My to-do list stared me down like a crew of cranked-out, roided-up outlaw bikers about a half-second before they barrel down on me to flatten my skull for knocking over their choppers.

Deadlines for copywriting and ghostwriting clients loomed over me hard.

Emails anxiously laid in wait in my inbox, screaming to be opened, so urgent needs and pressing expectations could be attended to.

And I had to call both my tax lady and my attorney. God bless ‘em, but I’d rather eat shards of glass drenched in Ebola mucus than hop on the phone and discuss the issues at hand. Calls like that tend to send my blood pressure through the roof and throw my A.D.H.D. into overdrive.

RUN, my mind screamed at me. Race down the to-do list so you can get all this shit done before the sun goes down.

As I poured high-octane, black coffee down my gullet, I reminded myself…

1. Thank God I have clients willing to pay me good money to do what I love.

I make money writing marketing copy—how cool is that?

I’m also paid to ghostwrite crime stories about high-level gangsters. Stories that go out to hundreds of thousands and even millions of readers and entertain the heck out of ’em. I’ve wanted to write crime fiction since I first saw Death Wish when I was about five years old.

PLUS, I get to do it all from my home office, hanging out with dogs and an arsenal of southern rock jams.

And my two-year-old daughter Zoe is right downstairs and pops in from time to time to give me hugs and talk about princesses and fairies and show me pennies she found on the floor and ask me for a pen so she can draw on the walls.

This is a million times better than waking up and having to fight my way through traffic to that minimum wage job at the print shop, like I did 13 years ago. In fact…this is downright fucking awesome! It’s what I’ve always wanted.

2. Thank God I have emails flying my way.

My clients value my service, and communication is just part of business. Without communication, there would be no business. And hell, email beats chatting on the phone any day of the week—something my introverted nature rarely wants any part of.

3. Thank God I have taxes to pay.

That means I’m making money.

4. Hey, I can afford an attorney!

There was a time when I couldn’t, and that sure sucked.

5. And, remember Chris, you’re WAY more creative when you’re relaxed and not in a hurry to get 10,000 things done at once.

Your work is better and you typically get more accomplished when you just do your best, focus on one thing at time, and throw your fucking heart into it. So chill out, dude. One. Thing. At. A. Time.

6. Action Alleviates Anxiety

When you’re doing one thing at a time, moving forward, it eases the anxiety. Thinking about tasks is stressful. Doing them, one at time, in the zone, without worrying about the rest of the list, is both relaxing and rewarding.

Well, damn, doesn’t that shift in mindset—the gratitude, action, and present moment awareness—make all the difference in the world?

Hellyeah it does.

Looking at it this way feels sooo much better than freaking out just because my to-do list is the size of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

My to-do list is a reflection of all the awesome stuff I have going on in my life…

It’s a list of things I want to do. (Well, most of it I do.)

There was a time in my twenties when I didn’t have a to-do list. My entire days were spent hitting doctors’ offices and pharmacies so I could score opiods and benzos and keep the dark clouds of impending withdrawals at bay. I was miserable, broke, and defeated.

Today I’m sober and have a damn good life, living by the beach in Orange County, doing what I love.

Focus on that.

I have to admit, though, being relaxed is making me a little uncomfortable. Feels strange. Better dump some more coffee down my throat so I can ramp up the tension again. Tension has been running buddy for years and it just don’t feel right not having him around.

Maybe I’ll wait a few hours for the next cup. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll wait a few hours.

Talk soon,
Big Chris

Leave a Comment:

Dylan says April 9, 2015

Was just thinking about how I should be thankful I’m busy doing what I’ve chosen to do. Not stressed about how I’ll get it all done. Just changing my mind set to telling myself I want to and can do my best would do a world of good to my stress and productivity levels. Thanks for the article – very timely.

    Chris McCombs says April 9, 2015

    I’m right with ya brother

      Doug says April 11, 2015

      Chris, I am a big fan of your inspirational writing & your life journey. We all have journey, so find it sooner than later, others never quite find it. I am glad you share yours, its inspiring..

      DOUG-LLBO ” LIve Life Balls Out”

        Chris McCombs says April 13, 2015


        love it. Thank you Doug.

George Wright says April 9, 2015

So long since you posted something, friggin love it. Stay home dad of 5 at the age of 48. been lifting since last May and started running 2 months ago. Felt like 50 is trying to screw me in the ass and I don’t want to go out like that. Every day I have a to do list with all the housework and kids appointments. I also have to find time to lift and run as i decided i needed goals. (half-marithon in Oct. for 49th birthday, 300 pound squat, 325 deadlift and a 225 pound bench) None of this would have been possible had I not stumbled across your writings. You helped get my motor running and though every day my list is long, guess what? I HAVE A LIST! I’M SO BLESSED TO BE HEALTHY ENOUGH TO DO ALL THIS SHIT. Thanks for all you write to help us stay in the game kicking ass and taking names.

    Chris McCombs says April 9, 2015

    wow, George, you are an inspiration, through and through. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing some of your story here. So cool. Enjoy those 5 kids, man.

Andy Campbell says April 9, 2015

Great to see a new post – helpful as always. Be well.

    Chris McCombs says April 10, 2015

    hey thanks Andy, hope you’re doing well, man

Josh says April 10, 2015

This reminds me of what my ultimate focus should be. Sure, school is definitely important. Sure, working as a consultant for a massive smartphone company is both a healthy way to work (love the job) as well as a stress inducer, and having a house to myself feels amazing (that’s a heck of a lot of change coming from nothing in a mere 10 months!) . However, this post has reminded me that doing things that I need to do, as well as what I want to do one step at a time allows me to be sane and focused enough to get all this done in the first place! Thanks for the refresher, and definitely looking forward to your next post!

    Chris McCombs says April 10, 2015

    Appreciate it Josh

Karim says April 10, 2015

It’s always make my day when I see your email in my inbox Chris! I completely understand and respect the fact that you’re working hard making a living writing, but the selfish part of me wishes that you would write more blog posts for us! Keep up the awesome work dude!

    Chris McCombs says April 10, 2015

    Thanks Karim. Words like yours mean a lot, they really do man.

Ang says April 10, 2015

Great post and perspective!!!! Thanks

    Chris McCombs says April 10, 2015

    Appreciate it Ang!

Lisa says April 10, 2015

It’s great to see a new post from you! You’ve been so helpful to me over the past couple years, especially as I was going through a very rough patch in life. Things are starting to come together as I pick up the pieces and move forward, but I’m still reviewing your old posts when I need a little push to continue down the right path. I’ve got ADHD, I’m a single mom, and I’m a nurse who works long hours in a hospital. The to-do list is never short and the coffee is always brewing! I’ll likely be referring to this post regularly. Thank you for everything. Take care!

    Chris McCombs says April 10, 2015

    Right on Lisa. Thanks. The coffee is always brewing. Love it (=

justin says April 11, 2015

Good to see you back, missed your thoughts.

If in doubt, pause. Take a breath. Think. Responding is better than reacting.

More, soon please.



    Chris McCombs says April 13, 2015

    Responding is better than reacting. True story. Thanks Justin.

Randal says April 13, 2015

Damn right Chris. Be thankful that you have these things to panic about.

Most of my work the last 20 years, has been in developing countries (a politically correct way of saying 3rd world countries). American’s perception of poverty is someone that uses food stamps. To someone in Nigeria, poverty is literally not having a roof over their heads, food to eat and no free medical when they get sick.

Puts things in perspective for me.

Yes, I bitch about paying taxes, paying bills, paying the mortgage and the like. But I’m fortunate to be able to pay these things. I’m fortunate to have a to-do list that involves paying for things that I have the money to pay for.

For someone in South Sudan, their to-do list is a bit different. Maybe looks something like this…

-Walk 4 miles to carry fresh water home
-Replace the mud that was sealing the thatched roof that was blown off yesterday
-Carry child that is sick 3 miles to a clinic that might have a doctor that can help and might have medicine to give the child
-Scrounge thru the jungle and garbage for anything useful and anything to eat
-Try to get some news about the war between North and South Sudan and how it might impact the village where I live
-Check out the rumors that the United Nations is setting up a new refugee camp and might be able to help.
-Walk 10 miles to check out above rumor

You get the idea.

    Chris McCombs says April 13, 2015

    WOW. Dude, reading this todo list you posted fills me with gratitude. THANK YOU Randal.

Randy Woody says April 17, 2015

Big Chris–glad to read this and glad to see a post from you. Always good stuff, and always helping someone. Blessings Big Man.

    Chris McCombs says April 17, 2015

    thanks Randy!

Michael Wheeler says April 30, 2015

Hey Big Chris,

Man, it is so awesome to see you doing your thing again. I have to admit though, I think it’s awesome for selfish reasons. I love reading your words! “and ask me for a pen so she can write on the walls”. I busted out laughing because it’s so damn true. My son does the same thing. It’s funny how lil’ things like that can really put things in perspective.

Anyway man, I’m glad you’re chuggin’ along. You gave me some great advice about a year or so ago and, I’m happy to say, I followed it. My life is so much better for it and I thank you for that.

I’ve tried my hand at this whole blogging thing. It’s all about giving people straight forward, no B.S. advice on how to get results from their time in the gym. It’s definitely a work in progress but I’d be honored if you and/or your readers would check it out.

God bless,

Michael Wheeler

    Chris McCombs says April 30, 2015

    right on man. Blogging’s a blast. You’ll have a lot of fun with it (if you like writing, of course). Thanks for your words Michael.

Adil Amarsi says July 10, 2015

Fucking awesome list brother!

I’m totally taking a page out of your book and looking forward to catching up sometime!

My best!

Tony says January 10, 2016

Man I started reading this last night. It rocked me pretty hard. Been going through a thing for a little while. Had some periods of time where I stayed straight. Nothing has ever felt quite right in my life though. Anyway I’ve had a problem with addiction for a long time. It blows my mind the things I convince myself, just to justify. Makes me sick thinking of all the fucking lies I’ve told to stay drunk or high. Even when I was trying to work out my fourth step. I was so fucked up about what was fact and what was fiction. I was defending other use even though I swore off drinking for good if that makes any sense I’m lucky I stayed out of jail as much as I have. So many reasons to stay sober but just never really figured out that whole comfortable thing or happy. Being with my kids is the only thing that was able to cheer me up but once I started fucking that all up. Everything snowballed they are my fucking world. But I guess I have a pretty big fucking douchebag living inside of me. I let them down. I really fucking did. I haven’t been able to fucking get it to fucking gether you hit a point in life where it’s really hard to live with yourself. Man they are the most amazing boys in the world. That’s what fucking kills me. Forgot how to be a fucking dad I’m not sure if I was ever good at it. I pray to the universe they never walk the road I did. Don’t get me wrong had some good times but never felt right from guilt over one thing or another. I had created so many false realities about people to make myself feel better. I could have done so much more for the kids if I had my shit together. I am going to get it right this time. Going to do the fitness, and gym like you had mentioned in another post I believe. I’ve always “talked” about wanting to take the boys to do vollunteer work never any action. I’m pretty damn lucky I haven’t been thrown in jail yet fucking up like this. I’ll just be honest with ya though I haven’t felt like I was in reality for quite some time. Anyway. Your posts and responses really fucking touched my heart and I appreciate it. I hope anyone I’ve hurt over the years will let me make it up to them somehow. Making emense or trying to the best I can anyway is all I can do I guess. Love the Tattoo on the forearm there. I’m trying now. I really hope to hear from you again, I think it would really help to talk with someone as I’m trying to rise above. Talking about positive things helps me. I once heard a lady at a meeting say her brain doesn’t hear the shouldn’t part there might be something to that for me. but keeping in touch with support would really help a guy out. Last night was quite a night had a lot of things hit home for me.

    Chris McCombs says January 21, 2016

    Hey Tony. Thanks for your honesty. I can relate to most everything you said. Fortunately, we live in a time when their is support all around us if we seek it out (therapists, 12 step meetings, sponsors, etc.). I admit, I don’t use what’s at my disposal nearly as much as I could and probably should. Thanks again for you heartfelt post.

Michael says February 17, 2017

This is a great example at looking at the fruits of one’s labor. That glance on paper can only motivate the mind to keep the “ball rolling”. There are so many luxuries to enjoy at this time. They can only make the work more comfortable.

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