Seeing as loads of students are learning from home and we’re the authors of our day with no timetable to guide us – to-do lists really come in handy.
To-do lists are really useful, you write down a list of your tasks so you don’t forget them – and cancel them off or tick them off when you’ve completed them. To-do lists can help you keep yourself in check.

However, writing tasks down doesn’t mean that they will get done and your to-do list can sometimes become a wish list.

Wish list: a list of things you want, often things that you know you cannot have.

So how do things that you have control over and are well within your means to do become nearly impossible to get done?

Here’s why your to-do list is now a wish list:

  1. You’ve bitten off more than you can chew

Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars” does not hold you in great stead when it comes to to-do lists. At the beginning of the day you could set really high targets and then the sheer bulk of work intimidates you and you get demotivated because in the back of your head you know that there’s no way you can complete those all those tasks because you set unrealistic objectives. Continually failing to meet the targets for each day can mess with your momentum – just be honest with yourself about the load of work you are able to handle. If you already know that four chapters worth of your Literature text is all you can handle at a time, do not put “8 chapters of Howards End” on your list.

2. Fear of failure


Most people respond this way: the higher the stakes, the less inclined they are to attempt a task. I am not a fan of answering essay questions that exceed 10 marks, when Business Paper 3 shows me a 16 marks or the standard Literature essay says 25 marks, I get a little nervous because more is expected of me and there is more room for me to make mistakes. I fear that it will not be perfect in the end so I tend to be content when things are left undone (until the last minute) rather than done with a couple of mistakes.

You can’t fail if you don’t try.


Perfectionism doesn’t serve us. Done with a couple of mistakes is better than not done at all.

3. You don’t take proper breaks

I used to think studying was being present at a desk for three hours straight. Break for who? I needed every second I could get. Once I had “studied” for an extended period of time it was nearly impossible to sit down and study again.


It is difficult to go back after not having taken regular breaks. Let me try help you to visualise this. You lend someone money and they take forever and a day to pay it back… eventually they pay it back and then they ask to borrow from you again. Wouldn’t you be willing to lend to them again?

Your brain is the money lender and you are the one borrowing.

Your brain needs time to rest and when you overwork yourself you aren’t doing yourself a favour. For all I know the brain says this each time we don’t take breaks until its too late “Do not let her/him go back to that desk! Who knows when we”ll next catch a break? I am tired. Send help.” Take that with a grain of salt I’m not really sure if brains have a mind of their own… but WHAT I AM SURE OF is that you need to take regular breaks.

Plus, your productivity goes down and you become less efficient when don’t take breaks. Work smarter.

I have the attention span of a goldfish sometimes so I use the Pomodoro Technique. You can read about it here. Basically it is a time management method – you need a timer. You get started on a task and set a timer for 25-45 minutes (depending on how long you can go before taking a break) then after this time has passed you take a 5 minute break. Go do something relaxing for 5 minutes, away from your workspace. Go get water to drink, a snack, take a walk outside, check your notifications… then get back to work. After doing this four times you can take a longer break of 45 minutes or so.

That way you are getting the most out of your time because you are attentive and alert and also the task is less intimidating – sitting at a desk for hours is BORING.

4. You do not set yourself up to win

You want to look at 5 out of 9 of your IGCSE subjects or you want to do a bit of AS revision and learn some AL concepts, you also want to jog at 4pm when the sun is bearable, you want to clean your room, do the assignment, check up on your friends and let’s not forget that people around you have expectations of you too. Your mom could want you to clean every inch of the house and you may be expected to babysit… I don’t know, you know best what your objectives and responsibilities are for the day – I am just trying to paint a picture of someone who has a very busy day ahead of them.

Not setting yourself up to win looks like this: waking up at 11am when you needed to wake up at 7am to get a head start so you have enough time to tick everything off your list. Not setting yourself to win is not coming up with a strategy or plan to reach your end goal for the day. Not setting yourself up to win could also be keeping your phone on and responding to notifications when you need all the brainpower you can get to cover that troublesome topic. You set goals for yourself but you do not even help yourself achieve them and then they end up being out of your reach and then end up being only a wish-list.

So if it means saying goodnight to your MCM/WCW and all your friends at 10pm instead of 2am so be it. If it means disabling the noisome Twitter app for a while so be it. You need to love yourself enough to make the conditions conducive for your success.

To the students reading this here is a link to a video that can help you set yourself up to win!

5. You do not have an incentive/you are not motivated

On very good days I can cover a lot of ground because I know that future me will really benefit from my hard work. That only works on good days, (well for me) on a day when I am experiencing an existential crisis, future me doesn’t cut it. Seeing your vision board and the Maserati you saved from a Pinterest board in your gallery sometimes doesn’t do. Now what?

Create a reward system for yourself, if you know you are a YouTube junkie exercise self-restraint over the course of the day and watch YouTube to your heart’s content when you’ve ticked everything off your list. You’re following a show on Netflix? Wait until you’ve done a satisfactory level of work before you become a couch potato and watch it.

There are probably many more reasons why our to do lists become wish lists, feel free to share, these were the ones that hit home for me. The one thing these factors all have in common is that they are within your reach, you have control over them and you can take practical steps to get yourself out of the rut. I didn’t type anything out of this world like “you are not making it because there are unknown forces operating against you”

Bit off more than you can chew? Make the work that you want to cover is proportionate to what you can handle based on your responsibilities at home, the workload given to you by your teachers – stuff like that.

Set SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Are you scared of failing? Done with mistakes is better than not done at all. You can learn from your mistakes. If you are really anxious about not giving your best how about you give yourself the allowance to do your best by not waiting for the last minute. You are not setting yourself up to win? It’s up to you to make sacrifices and be disciplined. You are not motivated? Create some treats and rewards for yourself that you can enjoy when you’re done with your work.

Don’t forget, and this is the most important part – to let God in on your plans, your own intelligence cannot get you very far. You want to soar?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight

Proverbs 3: 5-6