Are You Suffering From “Carry-Over Tasks” Syndrome?

I noticed something last Sunday, when I was writing out my list of calls and must-do tasks for the week to come: I had a lot of “carry-over” tasks. Things I wrote down as needing to be done last week, but then here I was going into the next week and those tasks were still there.

And this happens with some of my goals as well. As I look back I see I had years of my life where the same goals were carrying over from December to January, over and over again. (Things like, writing and publishing a novel, for example.)

Maybe you can relate?

After months and/or weeks of carrying tasks and goals over, it kinda makes you stop and think… why am I doing this? If I’m so convinced these tasks or goals are important enough for me to keep carrying them over from the previous year or week, why haven’t I managed to complete any of them?

If you’re having the same experience, it’s time to get real with it. There are two things potentially causing this problem.

The Root Cause of Carry-Over Tasks

There are two main reasons you have carry-over goals (or tasks):

  1. Resistance–you know this is a super important task that could move you forward in a big way, so you avoid it by filling your day with meaningless tasks that keep you spinning on a hamster wheel
  2. You’re “Shoulding” Yourself–the tasks or goals are on your list because you think you should be doing them, not because you actually want to do them.

So, which is it for you? 


For me, it’s always Resistance. I’ve come to a place in my life where I no longer “should” myself into goals or tasks I don’t want to do. I am clear, focused and have a vision for my life and writing business.

But I do have a ton of Resistance, especially to the tasks and goals I know will help me make major progress. And in case you’re not familiar with the term, Resistance was coined by Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art. He defines it as: the internal avoidance of your creative work. Because you’re trying to avoid a calling that you feel inside, you create chaos in your life or make excuses.

When I find myself watching too much Netflix, having too many days (or–gulp–weeks) where my tasks are carrying over, or am overindulging in sugary, processed foods….I know that I’m Resisting my creative work. It’s tough to look at, because then you have to admit how much the creative work really matters to you and how afraid you feel inside, and that’s why you’re avoiding it.

Or at least that’s how it goes for me.

The good thing with being in the creative game this long now is I can recognize my Resistance in-action and usually stop it and start moving in the opposite direction pretty quick. But there are those occasions where I’ll get totally caught up in it. Usually when I’m overthinking something instead of just taking action on it.

Shoulding Yourself

The other option, is that you’re not Resisting anything, you’re just shoulding yourself into tasks and goals that don’t really matter to you. So that’s why you’re avoiding them.

If you’ve been telling yourself that you “have” to do something and yet that something never seems to get done, it’s time to call that task (or goal) into question. You need to ask yourself:

  • Do I really care about completing this task or goal?
  • Why do I feel this task or goal needs to be on my to-do list?
  • What is the purpose of this task or goal (as in, how will it move you forward)?

You’ll know from your responses whether or not you’re shoulding yourself. If you are, it’s time to stop that shit, pronto.

How To Overcome Carry-Over Tasks Syndrome

Alright, now that you’ve identified which category your carry-over tasks fall into, it’s time to remedy it. Luckily, the remedy is the same for both, so even if you could’t identify with one or the other, it will still work for you:

  1. Prioritize–it’s time to accept that you can’t do it all and by having so many carry-over tasks, more important stuff could be falling by the wayside. It’s time for you to prioritize your top 5 and top 10 (which is the top 5 plus 5 more) tasks that need to be done to move you forward, in your writing life and your life in general.The top 5 are the most important priorities, the things you must do every single day, no matter what. And then the additional 5 (rounding out the top 10), are things that it would be awesome to get done. You’re not allowed to work on the top 10 until the top 5 are done for the day. (I made a video explaining this way of prioritizing here.)

    By knowing what your top priorities are and focusing on them, you’ll find yourself making progress each day, week, month, year, and not having carry-over tasks that do nothing to add value to your life or your writing.

  2. Go Pro In Your Mind–Steven Pressfield says the cure for Resistance is “turning pro,” which means showing up and acting like a pro would. I like to think about this as more of a mindset shift. You have to start thinking the way a pro would and when you do that, the actions will automatically follow.For example, a pro shows up every day and writes, even if she’s not inspired. A pro finishes and publishes, then repeats the process again. A pro accepts that life will always get in the way, and she finds a way to get her writing done anyhow.

    An amateur lets the little things distract  or get in the way. An amateur makes excuses for why the writing didn’t happen.

    If you want to do this for real, you’ve gotta go pro in your mind. You’ve gotta have a Pro Writer Mindset that thinks–and then acts–from a place of already being the writer and author you want to be.

Share With Us

Which of the two categories–Resistance or Shoulding yourself–is responsible for your carry-over tasks? 

If you’re ready to go pro and step up into a Pro Writer Mindset and way of being, be sure to check out the Bestselling Author Mastermind, a high-level accountability and kick-ass motivation support group for emerging authors and authorpreneurs who want to make writing their life. 

Image courtesy of Banalities


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