The Danger of the To-Do List with Agnese Rudzate

November 15, 2021

Welcome to this week’s episode of the Ambitious Introvert. Today I’m talking with Agnese Rudzate who helps entrepreneurs and online business owners become more productive. If you’re on my email list, you may remember me talking about the overwhelm and anxiety my own to-do list caused me earlier this year – this is exactly what Agnese and I are going to dive into. This episode is for you if your own to-do list leads to stress and procrastination rather than productivity.

Agnese and I discuss:

  • Why Agnese doesn’t believe in the traditional to-do list
  • How to create actual productivity and move the needle in your life
  • Remembering we are in charge of our distractions
  • The link between sleep, diet, and productivity
  • What Emma-Lou did when her own to-do list became too overwhelming

Agnese helps her clients go from silly busy to strategic & smart to hit next-level success. Find out how you can work with her here.

Agnese’s book recommendation for the Ambitious Introvert:

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss


Connect with Agnese:

Connect with Me:

Click here for a raw, unedited transcript of this episode

[00:00:00] Agnese Rudzate: I got this. Hi, 

[00:00:07] Emma-Lou Parkes: thank you for joining me today. 

[00:00:10] Agnese Rudzate: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be. I get to 

[00:00:14] Emma-Lou Parkes: give the listeners a little bit of a backstory about this. So we connected quite a while ago. Um, you sent me an email saying, Hey, I’d love to be on the podcast. I looked through everything that you do have, oh yeah, this, this would be a great fit, but I had scheduled all the recordings and we agreed to touch base again when I was opening up.

And, uh, in the meantime I received an email from brain’s magazine. Where we’re both contributors and an article caught my eye about to do lists and it caught my eye to the point that I clicked through to read it. Now, I don’t do this very often. I usually just delete emails, but I haven’t, I’m just going to have a look at this and 

[00:00:51] Agnese Rudzate: if it’s your article.


[00:00:57] Emma-Lou Parkes: And the reason I clicked is because I had had to do list issue. That week. Very, very much. So. Anyway, soon as the recording slots opened up again, I knew that this was what we needed to be talking about. It seems to be fate. So thank you so much for joining me about that 

[00:01:13] Agnese Rudzate: today. Awesome. I love, you know, how things work in mysterious ways and sometimes they just find us when exactly when we need them.

You know, it’s like that trust in the guidance and the unit. Absolutely. 

[00:01:28] Emma-Lou Parkes: Because from looking at your website, when you initially contacted me and I, you know, looked at your, some of your HGTV, I said, oh, there’s so much stuff. We could, we could discuss it. And it was like, no, it’s going to be to do list. So that article, um, which obviously I loved and was very timely for me.

What inspired you to write that particularly, which was basically saying delete your to-do 

[00:01:52] Agnese Rudzate: list. Yeah, yeah. You know, um, I love lists. You know, I’m a list person, um, books to read, uh, shopping lists, you name it like lists can be super helpful. They, you know, they put the structure for our mind. It’s, you know, it’s simple to read to share.

Um, it’s great. But to do list is a different kind of based, um, if you. Just do a quick Google search. Um, you will find thousands of articles that praise a to-do it. Uh, they, they named so many benefits how helpful it is and how, um, you know, useful. But actually a lot of them are very false when it comes to our daily lives, increasing the habits for success and being actually productive, you know, just because we were taught to create one, it doesn’t mean that it has our best interest in heart.

So when I started to look into this more deeply, I realized that. Actually not as beneficial and it’s actually sabotaging us. And, um, as you mentioned, the brains magazine articles, this is kind of like, it was my first draft. I just went online and I looked at. What they were saying about it to do list and it just didn’t match.

And what inspired me to go look into this topic in the first place was unproductivity from those women that I have encountered and what was the cause of it. And what I realized is that a to-do list is something that is very Vogue. It gives us too much flexibility and it creates anxiety and stress because it’s just, we keep adding.

And it seems like it’s never ending. And that’s not a good thing. We don’t 

[00:03:54] Emma-Lou Parkes: want that.

And that is exactly where I was in the week that I read your article. So for some back, so some background for anyone listening, I had decided to make few changes to things in the business. So of course the things that needed to be completed went on the to-do list. But my to-do list was getting longer and not shorter.

And it was, it was a hot mess of a, to do list and it was starting to, I started to feel the pressure because it just kept getting longer and longer. And I was like, I’m not being productive. I’m not getting these things done. I’m adding more things onto it. And I would love your thoughts on this. The worst thing that I had on it, where things really small things like, you know, send new client a gift, which was gonna take like 10 minutes, but then I’d have like design new programs.

Which is obviously huge and it’s going to take far longer. So there was this real disparity between the tasks on it. Is that something that you see a 

[00:04:56] Agnese Rudzate: lot? Yeah, absolutely. Um, because a to-do list we can put, as you mentioned, we can put a big tasks. We can put small tasks. We can take, we can put tasks that take one minute or the whole day.

And that’s the problem with that. But there is a simple solution. What we just have to do is prioritize our valuable tasks and schedule them in our, in our planner. Right. Put them in our day because the danger of a to-do list is that it’s too flexible. Uh, it makes. You know, procrastinate on certain things.

We don’t feel like doing right. And you know, only to realize later that, oh, the deadline is here. I haven’t done this. I’ve been procrastinating. It’s been on my to-do list, but I never actually made time for it. Right. So making the time for each tasks, this is what creates productivity in our lives. This is how we move the needle.

Right. And 

[00:05:56] Emma-Lou Parkes: it’s so true. And like you, I love a list. I do, I, I love ABC like a blog article and it’s like, you know, the top 10, I’m like, I’m, I’m sold. I told them I’ve got reading list, um, which is a resource of one of my most downloaded resources because everyone loves a list of books to read. Um, and like you say, I think where we have more of a linear or minimal brain, it’s very nice to see, to see everything structured.

And when I was still in my corporate role, I used to keep a list of things to do on my days off, because I’d be like, oh, you know, my days off we’ll catch up with like life admin and that kind of thing. And there would always be things on the list that never got. Yeah. And then they get carried over to the next days off, which was like 10 days away.

I worked on a 10 day cycle, so they get carried away. And then suddenly I’d realized that I’d been rewriting the same things on a list for three months. And I haven’t done them. Is that 

[00:06:50] Agnese Rudzate: common? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But it’s because we don’t make time for it. And you know, that that’s the problem. So if you, you know, if you’re afraid to let go of it, you know, because many people will watch this and they will.

Yeah, well, you do, you I’ll do me. I’ll stick to my list. Um, use it, but use it as a quick tool to help you create better clarity. Use it when creating a roadmap, right? When putting together a plan when scheduling your daily activities, but never use it as, you know, Uh, endless collection of things that you might do now later, or maybe never, right.

It’s a very bad habit. And that keeps us highly unproductive because it gives us too much flexibility. It gives us this illusion that there is unlimited time unlimited hours in the day, which is not the case, you know? And another problem is that if you were to keep your to-do lists, Go ahead. If there would be one thing to do to improve it, to help you be more accountable and create time for it is to make sure that you actually put an action word for each task, right?

Because it’s not ideas list. It’s a to-do list. So for example, write something, write or send or read, you know, at least do that to help yourself. 

[00:08:29] Emma-Lou Parkes: It reminds me so much of, um, the first life coaching certification I did many years ago. And one of the first things it said is if someone has a big goal that they want to achieve, it’s so big that they get overwhelmed and, and don’t know how to do it because let’s say you’re a little bit unfit.

You know, you have an exercise for one year, a bit overweight and you think, oh, I want to run a marathon. Well, if you put, run a marathon on your to-do list, that’s going to look really overwhelming. And each time you come across it, you’re probably gonna think, oh, um, but you know what? What’s the first step.

Maybe the first step is go for a brisk walk. Per week or, or that, which obviously then that’s something that gets scheduled. So I think this is why this appeals to me so much, because with all the clients I’ve worked with over the years, I have seen this, I have the big goal. I have the big vision it’s on my list and it never gets done because they don’t know what the first kind of simple step is to take.

[00:09:23] Agnese Rudzate: You know, people are scared to kind of like scaly down. But, you know, that’s what we have to do. Yes. It takes us out of our comfort zone, you know, but it’s great to wish for big things and we, we should do it, but we also should take action, like weekly action daily action that moves us towards it. Right.

And yeah, and to do list is just something that can mess it up. As you said, you keep moving things from month to month and you know, like what’s happening. And the thing is that, you know, it’s in our nature to, uh, To procrastinate, you know, and to get distracted. And there there’s a famous guy. I don’t know if you know him.

I say famous because I just like his work. Uh, his name is near AOL. He has, I’ve read his book. Oh, Yes. Oh my God. And you know, he has done really extensive research about getting product to right. Not allowing ourselves to get distracted, staying committed. Um, he goes courses, you know, book, as you said, uh, and I was attending his masterclass.

And what he said is that time management is pain management. And that just made me so much happy that made me happy. Right. It made so much sense. Um, because it also made me think like, Where our excuses are coming from because couldn’t, we just schedule our priorities, follow the plan like clockwork, right?

Why do we allow ourselves to get distracted, lose the focus, right. Making these excuses and really this, the sentence that he said confirmed yet again, what, like I have been developing in my mentorship. Uh, what I have been talking about did that we are in charge. No one has. We’re in charge of our distractions.

We are the ones who led the outside circumstances affect us. Right. One of the things, one of the base that we’re creating is our to-do list, right? And the fact that it, you know, all of these issues come from, uh, under our underlying issues that we might not even be aware of. It’s just fascinating. So what, what I mean by all this is that distractions cost us time and to do list increases the chances of getting distracted.

You know, distractions lead us to, to follow up track. They ignite that desire to escape, discomfort, and to do list is really contributing to that. So if you’re not sticking to your plan, if you’re overwhelmed by to-do list, maybe it’s time to reconsider your action. 

[00:12:32] Emma-Lou Parkes: And it’s so true. I know a lot of my clients feel like I know what I need to do.

I’m just not getting it done. They almost want to hire a coach for some kind of accountability, because it’s like, oh, if I’ve got someone telling me and one of my clients, and she will not mind me sharing this because she will laugh because we laugh about it so much. He had this way, she’s got this big vision and she had this big idea and this big business plan and everything, but she wasn’t taking the first step because it was also a.

Uh, conceptual, I guess, to her at that stage, you know, some of it was many years in the future when it comes to taking the first step, she was just like, I just freeze. And I said, look, let me break it down and I’ll break down like next week’s plan for, and she was like, yes, that’s exactly what I need. Like, she didn’t need all of the things.

She just needed the plan for next week. And I sent her and it was like four things to do. I just sent it on a Google doc and she said, I couldn’t believe how simple it was. She’s like when I first saw it, she was like, I was actually offended with you. I was like, is that it? And yeah, in her mind, she was thinking that she needed to have like a big business plan with graphs and all this stuff.

And I was like, no, these things are the start. You just need to do this. And then she said, it dawned on her and she was like, it can be just so simple. 

[00:13:50] Agnese Rudzate: It’s so common to over-complicate. And there’s one thing that stuck in my head. I don’t know who said it. Just keep it stupid, simple. Keep it stupid. Simple.

There there’s no need for like all these great kind of graphics. You know, I always say that, like, how do you waste your time? Some people like to create kind of a graphics, right? They do it for fun. They like it. But then they spend like four hours in the day for it. Does that bring a needle in your business?

How does that help you? Right. And there’s a lot of those things and yes, we might enjoy the prettiness of it all, but it doesn’t really need to be there for you to take action. No, 

[00:14:33] Emma-Lou Parkes: I think the online space does a very good job of putting shiny things like that in front of us, because ultimately everyone’s running a business, everyone’s trying to make profit and I’ve had clients very early in their business.

You know, they haven’t yet had a client and they like, oh, I spent all day research in dev Salado versus HoneyBook versus sartorial or whatever. We really don’t need to worry about that. And so you’ve maybe got three or four clients we can, and they’re like, but I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t know how I’ll take payments.

I was like PayPal. And they’re like, oh yeah, I got pepper, but it’s almost like that’s not moving the needle. Like that’s eight hours. You spent reading about something that you don’t quite yet need because you’ve 

[00:15:13] Agnese Rudzate: complicated it. And you know, this is why it’s so great to have somebody like you to put them on that track, you know, to say them.

This really can wait. Now let’s focus on that, this outside perspective. And then of course, if it goes both ways, the client also needs to trust the guidance, right. It needs to accept it and needs to accept also how simple it can be. 

[00:15:39] Emma-Lou Parkes: So when people work with you for their productivity around their business, do they notice the ripple effect in other areas of their life?

Because as we know when you make one change change, 

[00:15:49] Agnese Rudzate: yeah. Um, I always say it’s all connected. Like I talk a lot about sleep and diet, because like, you can’t be productive if you eat, I don’t know, burgers all day or, you know, lift Coca-Cola can for exercise. You like you, you need to like balance it out. And that’s, those are the fundamentals of productivity, right?

Because you can have tools, tips, tricks, hacks, and app. But really it comes down to you because we’re in charge. If we lack sleep, if we sleep four hours a day, how productive can you really be? If you constantly take night shifts, that’s gonna, you know, as you say, ripple effects. Yeah. You will see them and you will go down.

So let’s lift you up, right. Let’s put those fundamentals in place and then go from there with all the tools and tips and hacks. 

[00:16:44] Emma-Lou Parkes: I think it’s a lot around boundaries as well. Like you say, everything comes back together. I was thinking, I think it’s an indestructible that he was saying he has something like hat that he puts on when he’s doing his deep work.

I think it’s that book, but I’m not sure. Um, so don’t quote me, but he works from home, but he’s got a hat that’s like, I’m doing deep work and the kids know like, You can’t go and talk to daddy because he’s got a hat on and it, you know, but it’s that boundary of, if he’s working at the computer and he doesn’t have the hats on, then yes, you can go and like interrupt him and have a conversation.

But when, once that hats on, it’s like, no, I’m focused on what I’m doing. 

[00:17:19] Agnese Rudzate: Yeah, and this is great. And it’s so, so important, especially now when we all are working at home, right? How do we balance it all? And that’s another big issue with a lot of entrepreneurs. A lot of people who work from home, you know, I know that one lady, she boots when she puts her earphones on it’s like the sign that like I’m, I’m focused on my work and that’s it.

Please do not disturb me unless it’s urgent. And then again, of course you need to establish. What is urgent, right. Uh, talking about these things, it’s, it takes a lot of effort to communicate and to make sure that you understand each other, whether it’s between your husband, between your children, um, how, you know, to be clear on those boundaries and to see like how, how they are receiving.

Yeah. It’s 

[00:18:12] Emma-Lou Parkes: I think like you say everything just links back into everything else. Really. It’s really important to keep that in mind too. Yeah. So you touched on, like, if you really do have kind of a to-do list, put something actionable on it, like, you know, read, send, et cetera. Um, I would love to ask you one more question before we round up that the listeners can take away as a really actionable tip, but I’ll share with you first one.

In the end when I got overwhelmed, because I would love your feedback on that. I split my to-do list. It’s two things. So the first thing I did was I went through and I was like, what absolutely needs to be done and what is just like a nice idea for three months, time in the future and everything that needed to be done.

I then scheduled. Sorry. I scheduled it over the next month. I put it into my clicker project management lake. So now it comes up by log on in the morning. It’s like today you have to do this. I’m like fine. And the other things, they went into a Google doc, which is called brain dump. And then every week or so I go back into brain dump and maybe add things.

But quite often I find that I delete things because without the pressure of thinking that they are to do and I’ve got to do them. Yeah. They’re just like an idea. Well, I have lots of ideas. I’m an entrepreneur and I don’t act on all of them. So sometimes a couple of weeks later I go, yeah, no, I’m not really feeling that or that doesn’t actually fit in with what I’m doing.

Um, but it’s, it’s a way it’s tidy. I don’t feel any pressure from it. It’s just like an ideas 

[00:19:42] Agnese Rudzate: space. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, congratulations, this, this is amazing what you have done. And as I said, at the beginning, your to-do list is not your ideas list. Right? So don’t put everything into it that you don’t intend to do, like in next couple of days, or, you know, in, in short amount of time, because if you just keep adding, it gives that person.

If you and you were in charge and you are the one putting that pressure on yourself. So how does that help you? Right. We sabotage ourselves constantly. And it’s great to keep like a file on your laptop. As you say, you can Google docs, whatever, to just get your thoughts out. Because again, if you keep them all in and you think like, oh, it’s in my head.

It’s, it’s not increasing the productivity. It’s, it’s having your mind. Doesn’t relax and it’s never good. Uh, and it’s something I also suggest to my clients, like before bedtime, like just do it, you know, just get it out out there so you can sleep. You have, you can have productive sleep and then you can have productive day, you know?

So it’s amazing what you have done truly. Well, I’m, 

[00:20:54] Emma-Lou Parkes: I’m, I’m very proud that I passed the test and it has been much better. Um, it just means that now when I’m out for a walk without my tech or when I’m in the bath and I have a good idea, I have to remember to play afterwards, run and write it down so I can transfer it to the brain dump list before it gets washed away by other aids.

So I said, I was going to ask you one more question and obviously it’s one. Every guest on here. So I would love to know for anyone listening, who is really looking to up their productivity so they can grow and scale their business. Which book would you recommend that they read? 

[00:21:31] Agnese Rudzate: I have read several books, uh, for the moment.

One of my favorites is just four hour workweek. It’s, it’s fun and it’s simple, you know, and it gives that light feeling that everything is possible. And this is what I want for, for everyone, you know, books that are inspiring, you know, because productivity is something very technical time management, you know, management, management, it’s all about, you know, technical stuff, tools and tips and tricks.

But it comes down to our willingness, our decision-making and, um, how are we, um, moving forward? So it’s, it’s our mindset that sets the tone, right? It’s. Um, in, in our triggers that get us distracted and all of those things. So it’s important to, to take it more lightly. And this is why I liked this book so much that it’s just, um, it’s easy and it shows that things are possible.

It gives you the calculation to the percentage that the numbers, you know, and you suddenly realize, oh my God, yes. Like it’s actually more simple than I thought. It’s crazy. It’s 

[00:22:45] Emma-Lou Parkes: that book that enabled me to become an entrepreneur. I think many people, because I read it not long ago. Um, Tim Ferris had written it.

And like you say, it was just a very different view of things that I never considered before. So it’s a, it’s on my reading list as well. It’s on my downloadable reading list. I always say to people it’s like, if you don’t know where to start, or if you’re brand new, that is the book that I would recommend because you would just get ideas and see what’s possible.

So thank you so much for recommending that one. Great choice. And Agnes, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your wisdom today. I’m going to drop all of your links in the show notes for anyone that wants to connect with 

[00:23:26] Agnese Rudzate: you online. Thank you very much. I had it. It was such a pleasure. I had so much fun and thank you very much for inviting me and having me.

And I’m so glad that we connected in so many different ways, you know, and that now we can build upon it. Uh, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. Thank you very much. Beautiful. Thank you so much.