My To Do List


to do mind mapI promised at the end of my “Getting Ready” post that the next post would be the To Do list. It has been quite some time since I wrote that, and things have happened in between, but now it’s time to post the TO DO list and reveal its history and my challenges with it.

You’ll notice my “list” is in the form of a mind map. I have a couple of software programs that produce these, and they are great. My actual mind map has branches off of each of the main topics and further items to do. For simplicity (and a little privacy!) I left those off of this picture.

One reason mind maps are better than lists is that many of the “tasks” on our to do lists are actually projects, which can’t be “done.” If you put a project on your to do list thinking it is a task, it will never get done and will drive you crazy.

For example, one of these items, Taxes (which I can actually take off, having completed them!) consisted of the following actual tasks (a task is something that can be accomplished in a reasonable block of time):

  • Complete personal, business, and rental house data entry in QuickBooks
  • Run a report showing personal funds used for business expenses; enter that as a bill in QuickBooks
  • Print and complete organizers and worksheets from the accountant
  • Gather all the 1099s and other documents for accountant
  • Take everything to the accountant
  • Make backups of QuickBooks accounts and put in a Dropbox folder for the accountant

There were probably more tasks, but you get the idea. You can see that “doing taxes” is an overwhelming and practically undoable task, since it’s a project. On the other hand, “completing QuickBooks entry” is something that can be done–either all at once, or for 10 minutes at a time over several sessions.

Taxes was one project with a deadline. Another project with a deadline is “Detroit house.” You’ll note I added “deadline looming” to my mind map in an effort to spur me into action. That deadline passed without much action on my part, so my task now is to find out what happened. As this blog is an effort to watch myself procrastinate, resist, and refuse to do the items on my list–and figure out how to break through all that, this one has been fascinating.

Brief background: In 2009 I bought a house in Detroit at an investment conference. The number of mistakes and bad decisions I made around this one item this could probably be another book. The major one was trusting the salesperson  and not doing any due diligence. Everything he “promised” was a lie: the house had not been renovated and it didn’t contain a tenant. Had I spent $500 to fly there and look at it, I would have saved myself more than $20,000. I would also have found out that the taxes on this 845 sq ft house were more than those on my 2400 sq ft house in Colorado!

Next major mistake (maybe): I didn’t pay them. They only let you not pay them for so many years, they they foreclose on the house. Frankly, I can’t figure out why they’d want it back! To make matters worse, the same week as the foreclosure sale, I received a “tax valuation notice” saying the value had been reduced by about $15,000! I think the value is now less than what I’m paying for fire insurance on it!

I imagine you’ll agree that it’s pretty obvious why I’m resisting doing anything on this project: It is probably a worthless investment that can only cost more money. I don’t want to pay $11,000 in back taxes. If it’s foreclosed, I can stop paying the insurance! I’m embarrassed by the whole situation and feel rather helpless and that nothing I do is really going to help. I guess I’m putting my head in the sand and hoping the whole thing goes away! (Which it may have!)

I did do a couple small things toward this project: I wrote an email (that was never acknowledged) asking it be taken out of the foreclosure pile. Unfortunately, I did this about a month past the deadline for doing so. I also contacted a realtor who had sent me some pictures of the house a few years ago. Never heard back from him, either.

My next task on this project is call the Detroit treasurer to find out if it was actually foreclosed. While I have them on the line, I can discuss the valuation notice I received, and see if there are any other options. Also, the Realtor indicated the sale might have been fraudulent so I can ask if there’s anything I can do about that. At this point I can only plead ignorance and see if there anything that can be salvaged.

These two projects illustrate what I’m intending to do with this blog: Use my actual To Do list and my actual progress toward each project to show what goes on in my head, my mind, and my body.

Writing publicly about the Detroit house actually has made me feel better. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has made a bad investment or not done the due diligence or believed a persuasive sales person. It’s only money, and while I’m not happy about losing it, it’s not my rent money and I won’t starve as a result (at least not for awhile–it was retirement money!). And maybe something positive will come out of it and perhaps things can be salvaged. I won’t know until I make that call. And when I do (it’s on tomorrow’s agenda), I’ll let you know what happened!

Coaching questions: Use the comments section to tell me: What are you resisting? What deadlines have you let pass? How did you feel? What did you do as a result?

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