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sming

To Do list task-prioritization OCD

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Hey all,

I make ToDo lists for several reasons and generally find them helpful. However I also often find myself paralyzed by internally demanding that I be 100% sure of the "best" or "optimal" task to do first. My OCD and anxiety go through the roof and incapacitate me into inaction and... I get nothing done :/

I've wracked my brain for any reasons as to why I'm terrified of not doing the optimal task first but I just can't put my finger on it. I have severe TRD so it could be that I tell myself that I "have" to do the most important/best tasks whilst I'm feeling well enough to be able to do them, and that disaster would ensue if I didn't. But I just don't know TBH. 

Anyone else get this task-prioritization OCD & anxiety? Any insights, techniques or tips? I tried randomly ordering the tasks today which helped somewhat, for example. 

Best to all,

Pete

P.s. due to the TRD I'm crap at replying but I will eventually reply!

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I have a different problem with lists. I make long lists then they’re so long I do nothing because I think I can’t do it all. Different problems, same result I guess. I have a task app I no longer use because it allowed so many tasks. But I will say, it could break tasks down by category—school, work, personal, project, etc, so I could look at a shorter sub list which was helpful. Would that help you?  Tasks are a problem for me. 

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I think yes, to-do lists are helpful and prioritization is really key. I've been told to try and tackle the "most difficult" tasks (or tasks that require the most energy) first or as soon as possible (or when I have the most energy).

But try not to beat myself up if i only accomplish a few of the low-level tasks, I think with depression (TRD in particular) you must give yourself credit for anything you finish!!! and try to reward yourself. Some days I don't do anything on the list, and maybe there are days when I go above and beyond. If you are feeling paralyzed just do the smallest baby step that you can cross off that list!

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my ocd also likes me to organize things by importance, and makes me think if i don't get The Most Important thing done everything will be ruined. i end up spending more time on the list than on getting myself to do things... you lose the forest for the trees. for me this comes from black and white thinking. because there's no absolute definition of important or not, i would struggle with figuring out what was The Most important because i couldn't deal with the fact that a thing's importance is subjective, not objective. 

one thing i found helpful was to define "important", rather than letting it be this abstract, scary thing. there are many ways a thing can be important -- for example, you might get a task that is time-sensitive, but not very impactful on the quality of your life. another task may be simple to do, but have bigger consequences if you don't do it. they're all important on some level, it just depends what your priorities are. pick a definition of important and make your list that way. maybe your list of activities is ordered from most to least time-consuming, or least to most complicated, or most to least time sensitive. all of these can make a thing important, but they're all very different ways of measuring it.

ocd manifests in a lot of different ways, but this helps me. maybe you'll find it useful as well. :-)

i hear you about replying. take your time, and don't feel pressured. when you've got some energy, let us know how you're doing.

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I have oodles of mental lists to get through, but I'm blessedly forgetful enough that they rarely get completed. I kind of force myself to just be happy I get anything done, and try not to beat myself up over forgetting to do the dishes or pick up something. 

With OCPD there can often be a drive to be maximally efficient- even if plotting the best way to be efficient leads to inefficiency. Like trying to work out the quickest route somewhere and spending ages on it when actually just setting out would be quicker and less anxiety provoking!

Random ordering sounds good. I think there's something to trying to let go of the need to have an optimal task. If you are still breathing and eating and sleeping that's a job well done. And if not, have dinner and try to nap. Or call an ambulance, you really need to breathe (terrible joke sorry)

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On 11/24/2018 at 1:04 PM, sugarsugar said:

I have a different problem with lists. I make long lists then they’re so long I do nothing because I think I can’t do it all. Different problems, same result I guess. I have a task app I no longer use because it allowed so many tasks. But I will say, it could break tasks down by category—school, work, personal, project, etc, so I could look at a shorter sub list which was helpful. Would that help you?  Tasks are a problem for me. 

Aha, I know the CBT "answer" to this one. What you do is you focus on the tasks that you have done, not the ones that you haven't. This actually helps me to some extent whereby most CBT techniques do nothing for me.

Also, you select say half a dozen tasks from your giant list for today and put them in a mini list called "Today". Much less fearsome. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
Book by David D. Burns does a good job on this aspect. He likens using a giant list like that to piling up all the food you would eat in a year and putting on a table in front of you when you're about to eat - massively unappetising. Hence just "aim" for a "bite sized" number of tasks and that will be far less unappetizing. In theory.

HTH

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On 11/25/2018 at 4:14 PM, Blahblah said:

I think yes, to-do lists are helpful and prioritization is really key. I've been told to try and tackle the "most difficult" tasks (or tasks that require the most energy) first or as soon as possible (or when I have the most energy).

But try not to beat myself up if i only accomplish a few of the low-level tasks, I think with depression (TRD in particular) you must give yourself credit for anything you finish!!! and try to reward yourself. Some days I don't do anything on the list, and maybe there are days when I go above and beyond. If you are feeling paralyzed just do the smallest baby step that you can cross off that list!

But it's choosing those "most optimal" task that stops me in my tracks. I debate internally the "value" of say cleaning the bathroom v.s. importing photos off my phone. I know it's impossible to objectively do that but my OCD demands that I be doing the "optimal" task at any given time, else... some kind of disaster.

I actually think the OCD disaster threat is "... if you don't do the most optimal task, shortly when you feel too shit to do any tasks again, it's a disaster that this terribly important task hasn't been done". The problem then is that according to ERP (Exposure Response Prevention - the only OCD treatment that's helped me), I should "challenge" this belief by not doing any of the optimal tasks. And that just doesn't jive with real life since I need to maximise each time I feel undepressed, else no tasks would get done and things would fall to shit even more than they already are ?

FFS ?

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On 11/25/2018 at 5:39 PM, echolocation said:

my ocd also likes me to organize things by importance, and makes me think if i don't get The Most Important thing done everything will be ruined. i end up spending more time on the list than on getting myself to do things... you lose the forest for the trees.

A Kindred Spirit. I believe in CBT parlance, we are consumed with TIC's (Task-Irrelevant Cognitions) but ideally should be occupied purely by TOC's (Task-Oriented Cognitions). 

On 11/25/2018 at 5:39 PM, echolocation said:

for me this comes from black and white thinking. because there's no absolute definition of important or not, i would struggle with figuring out what was The Most important because i couldn't deal with the fact that a thing's importance is subjective, not objective.

Yeah, I think I just replied saying just as much. OCD really fucks me off since I know how irrational I'm being, I just can't not do it.

On 11/25/2018 at 5:39 PM, echolocation said:

one thing i found helpful was to define "important", rather than letting it be this abstract, scary thing. there are many ways a thing can be important -- for example, you might get a task that is time-sensitive, but not very impactful on the quality of your life. another task may be simple to do, but have bigger consequences if you don't do it. they're all important on some level, it just depends what your priorities are. pick a definition of important and make your list that way. maybe your list of activities is ordered from most to least time-consuming, or least to most complicated, or most to least time sensitive. all of these can make a thing important, but they're all very different ways of measuring it.

But then I just endlessly TIC/fret over whether I've chosen the "right" definition of "important" !  Naturally, with my compulsive blame lying around just waiting for any given opportunity to "help out", I blame the shit out of myself for not doing the most optimally important task, because it... jeopardises something or other. Sigh

On 11/25/2018 at 5:39 PM, echolocation said:

ocd manifests in a lot of different ways, but this helps me. maybe you'll find it useful as well. ?

i hear you about replying. take your time, and don't feel pressured. when you've got some energy, let us know how you're doing.

Thanks man. Wow, looking at the time stamps, this one took like 3 months to reply. That's bad even for me. 

Anyway presently my Task OCD (and my OCD in general) isn't too bad because my depression is really bad. I don't have the motivation/energy/undepressedness to consider doing any tasks in my "free time" so I'm currently not entering this problem space much. How "hilariously" ironic. Also, when I absolutely have to do a task, all my mental energy is devoted to actually just doing it, instead of the pre-task OCD dance around which task I should be doing. Either that or I'm so depressed I just don't care about the "disastrous" consequences if it's not the most optimal task. FFS.

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@sming Have you ever followed the Nike mantra "Just Do It?"  It seems you are overthinking things down to the smallest minutiae which will only paralyze and drive you completely insane. I guess that is part of the O in OCD?

How do you feel when you just force yourself to stop thinking and just start doing something? For example: I can never get myself to exercise. I sit, procrastinate wander around, debate should I get my workout clothes on....hmmm what if it starts to get cold...mmmm...do i really feel like it.....well, i feel a bit hungry, or I need to do laundry...etc etc. I would try to just stop thinking, and immediately put on my shoes, change quickly and just GO - for a walk, a run, a class, whatever...the thing is, I don't allow myself to overthink about it, because I will talk myself out of doing it.

I don't know, just a strategy you've probably already tried, but I find myself often over-thinking and worrying about things, and end up just wasting MORE time, procrastinating, worrying, beating myself up. Then I get absolutely NOTHING done and everything piles up and becomes totally overwhelming.

Edited by Blahblah
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On 2/21/2019 at 5:30 PM, Blahblah said:

@sming Have you ever followed the Nike mantra "Just Do It?"  It seems you are overthinking things down to the smallest minutiae which will only paralyze and drive you completely insane. I guess that is part of the O in OCD?

How do you feel when you just force yourself to stop thinking and just start doing something? For example: I can never get myself to exercise. I sit, procrastinate wander around, debate should I get my workout clothes on....hmmm what if it starts to get cold...mmmm...do i really feel like it.....well, i feel a bit hungry, or I need to do laundry...etc etc. I would try to just stop thinking, and immediately put on my shoes, change quickly and just GO - for a walk, a run, a class, whatever...the thing is, I don't allow myself to overthink about it, because I will talk myself out of doing it.

I don't know, just a strategy you've probably already tried, but I find myself often over-thinking and worrying about things, and end up just wasting MORE time, procrastinating, worrying, beating myself up. Then I get absolutely NOTHING done and everything piles up and becomes totally overwhelming.

Yeah tried that one with showering. It occasionally works but the resistance to doing it mostly wins. That one's more depression than OCD but it's just so galling, demoralising, depressing, embarrassing and just downright shit that it requires winning a lengthy battle just to do "simple" daily admin and chores.

I don't remember the last time I ran, mostly due to this. And I know full-well that running would help with my mood and my Chronic Pain. I just can't bring myself to do it. Then I loathe myself for not doing it, which just increases the depression.

One thing I do try to bear in mind is periods where I've not been very depressed. Going for runs, showering and "just doing it" feels natural, logical and sensible. It's easy. I try to bear this in mind to have a hope of giving myself a break when I'm depressed, which is 95% of the time.

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Could I offer something my psychologist has suggested? 

He has told me to mentally do the task first, from the very beginning to the very end...just in your minds eye...eyes closed.

Then, open your eyes, stop thinking, and like Blah said, “just do it”. 

If I remember to do it, and I’m not incredibly depressed, it usually works. 

Just something to try. 

Edited by DammitJanet

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3 hours ago, DammitJanet said:

Could I offer something my psychologist has suggested? 

He has told me to mentally do the task first, from the very beginning to the very end...just in your minds eye...eyes closed.

Then, open your eyes, stop thinking, and like Blah said, “just do it”. 

If I remember to do it, and I’m not incredibly depressed, it usually works. 

Just something to try. 

That's interesting, thank you. Whenever I envisage a task, such as showering, beforehand it often "feels like" climbing Mount Everest and "depresses me out of" doing the task ?

That said, when I break showering down into steps (turn shower on. get undressed. get in shower. apply shampoo etc.) it sometimes helps. Sometimes.

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Just now, sming said:

That's interesting, thank you. Whenever I envisage a task, such as showering, beforehand it often "feels like" climbing Mount Everest and "depresses me out of" doing the task ?

That said, when I break showering down into steps (turn shower on. get undressed. get in shower. apply shampoo etc.) it sometimes helps. Sometimes.

?

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