Must vs Want: The to-do conundrum #MicroBlogMondays

This question popped out of the hidden corners of my mind earlier today. It’s probably not the first time it has, but the urgency with which it asked made me pause and reflect.

We have all these tasks at hand; many days they seem like a overwhelming pile of to-dos. The question though is have you considered this: Which of them are must-dos and which are want-to-dos?Must Do


I love doing anything related to writing: writing blog posts, even long-ish status updates on Facebook and my poetry which usually comes forth in a burst without much forethought. These are things I always want to do.

Then there are things I must do, such as paid work or housework. Yes, the needle always points more towards the ‘want’ than the ‘must’ list. Always. But it’s not necessarily practical to do what you want to do all the time.

How do you balance the ‘must’ and the ‘want’ then? Β It’s actually simple, involves two steps and something I’ve tried to teach my daughter too.

Step 1: Make a list of your must-do tasks and your want-to-doΒ activities. Physically write it down each morning or the night before and see what happens. You’ll get an idea of how to apportion time.

Step 2: Complete the must-do items first. Whether that’s your workout or answering that urgent email or sending off that piece to the magazine you pitched for last week. Then, when you turn your attention to the want-to-do items, there’s a sense of joy that makes the activity not just a pleasure but feels like a reward in itself.

How about you?

Do you struggle with must vs want?

Do you balance them in the same way?

Suggested reading:

Why you do what you do by John Murphy

This infographic is equally fascinating!Β 


30 thoughts on “Must vs Want: The to-do conundrum #MicroBlogMondays

  1. I guess right now, the only must do that I have is to pay attention to studies! But yes, I think I can apply this must vs want approach for different subjects and chapters. It will make time allocation way easier!
    Thank you for sharing this, Shailaja πŸ˜ƒ

    1. Oh I used to do that in school and college too! I’d finish all the boring chapters first so zipping through the fun ones was so much more enjoyable πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  2. Thanks for sharing Shailaja πŸ™‚ Personally, I want to make a list and stick to it everyday but more often than not, I end up abandoning it in a couple of days. But your technique works where in I separate my tasks between MUST and WANT to-do activities. That way I am sure it will give me more clarity and stop me from procrastinating. Off I go to prepare my list. πŸ™‚

  3. totally agree.

    1) I remember telling my mother that I wanted to spend the summer doing personal projects & in her very gentle/firm way told me that that’s great but a part of life is realizing that you have to eat. If I really wanted to do those things, I would find the time/energy to do them on top of working. Which really was true. In school I would be in the lab 2 in the morning after getting done with school work and despite being incredible tired, pushing through it because I enjoyed what I was doing so much.

    2) I think a great thing happens when the want-to-do’s and must-do’s collide into the same list (perhaps something that doesn’t happen often enough but at the same time is motivation to get really good at what you do).

    3) A friend of mine always told me that the perfect job is the one that makes Monday your favorite day of the week (a job that turns your must-do’s into want-to-do’s and visa versa).

    1. Oh I so so agree on the job turning your must-dos into your want-dos and I am blessed to have a job that allows that PLUS allows me to fit in some extra want-dos as well. Not everyone has that luxury, I guess.

      Loving the detailed nature of your comment. Thank you so much!

  4. It is a conundrum, no doubt. How I tackle this is using my day at work for all must do so that my job goes well and then when I get home, it’s my want to write, read list. πŸ™‚
    Sometimes – both activities get mixed up but I like that confusion and trying to do that all.

  5. On those rare occasions where I do battle them. I chalk out a plan. Then do whatever I feel like anyway πŸ˜€ It’s quite a mix always.

  6. It is a daily struggle to meet the need/want balance ratio. I am no expert and fail many times to satisfy either side. Writing a list helps, but I don’t always follow my own instructions. Or, I do follow it and get sidetracked by the needs of a child (or two) which over-ride my own. I guess it all balances out in the end, or at least that’s what I tell myself… πŸ˜›

    1. He he, finding that balance as a parent is one of the most tricky things out there! I know I love doing a lot of things for myself and for the kid too though.So maybe just staying happy with what we’ve got is the best option possible.

  7. I struggle so bad with ‘want’ and ‘must’. This stupid heart just refuses to listen and then I end up waking till late hours to finish the job. The funny thing is my list is a mix match all the important and trivial stuffs … I should try this πŸ™‚

  8. There is always this tug-of-war between the must-dos and want-to-dos. And mostly, the want to dos get done faster than the must dos. πŸ˜€ But my guilty conscience is such a thing, it doesn’t leave me in peace! So I get off the couch, finish the must dos, shut up my conscience and then gloat away to glory! πŸ˜€ (Am very efficient at keeping all of *them* happy! πŸ˜‰)

  9. I have this habit…I make a to do list of all the things that need to be done…and at night number three tasks as 1, 2, and 3. They are the tasks that if done and nothing else gets done, I still count my day as productive. At the end of the week I sit down and remove the tasks that haven’t gotten done over the week, either put in in a list to be done at a later date or just delete it depending on what the task is. That is how I categorise tasks, somewhere its similar to the want and must do lists.

  10. Oh I never used to struggle earlier but nowadays I am. I guess I still have to learn how to balance things with an infant at home. But I like the idea of a physical list..I sometimes do send myself emails or use sticky notes, but nowadays nothing seems to be working..24 hours just doesn’t seem enough!

    1. Physical notes work for me. Emails and digital notes are too much on overload, to be honest. This way, I have the memory of writing it down too πŸ™‚

  11. I actually send myself an email at night when I wind up. It just lists the most important must dos for the next day. I try to tackle those during the day on priority. But truth be told on some days, the wants just take over. πŸ™‚ Good reminder to be more organized and reduce the stress in our own lives.

  12. That’s a very useful tip. It is similar to my studying pattern where I study the least favourite subject first…or at least try to! As much as the must-do’s are important I try my best to keep some time for want-to-do’s everyday.

  13. Always..! the wants take over most of the time, and must remain.. but things get down at the end of the day πŸ™‚ Writing down helps I agree.. lazy though on many days.. then I kind of compartmentalize everything on my morning walks.. and then it begins! πŸ™‚

  14. Oh yes, I struggle with them always. Most days I do what I want to do till the ‘must dos’ become ‘absolutely must must do right now’. And then I go crazy. Then there are times when I try to turn over a new leaf and decide to finish all the ‘must dos’ with the ‘want to dos’ hanging like a carrot pushing me to finish fast. Those are the good days.

    1. Ha ha, I like the way your to-do list morphs and grows πŸ˜‰ I find that the ‘want to dos’ are always so much more tempting to do and have to fight the urge to get to those first!

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