The Black Cloud List

I’m a procrastinator in that I will delay doing something that I dread, sometimes indefinitely. It might be because it’s part of a project that is just too big and I can’t figure out where to get started, or it might be because it involves making a phone call and talking to someone. Those two cover most of the things I’m supposed to do but just can’t.
And then there’s the to-do list itself. Almost every productivity system out there insists that I make a master list of every single thing that I need to do. I’ve done that before. The list begins to have three parts: the ordinary items I need to do, things need to do but are dreading and avoiding, and things that don’t have to be done but I’d really like to do. The ordinary and the avoiding parts are relatively finite, but the wish list part just goes on and on as long as I care to keep writing. A master to do list is really just a project brainstorming tool, and I can think up new ideas all day long.
After I force myself to stop, the list is so long and intimidating that I can’t bear to look at it. It’s my to do list, after all, the list of things that I’m supposed to be doing, never mind that an enormous fraction of that list is tasks I just dreamed up as I wrote and would only be nice to do. The entire list rests heavily on my shoulders, and no amount of high-medium-low prioritizing will change that.
So I don’t make a master to do list anymore. I make a semi-realistic daily list, fresh each morning with no deliberate carry-over, and work from that. But the things I’m delaying still live in my head, and still weigh me down.
Mark Forster proposes a Black Cloud List, a very specific list of the tasks that must be done but which are dreaded and avoided. I’ve adopted and adapted it, and found that it works well for me. I can see the list, so I am not afraid of dropping the ball on something. These are all things that actually need to be done, instead of things that I wish I could do, or I’d like to do someday, or that would be nice to have done. It is fairly limited and entirely concrete: usually my next action is quite concrete and usually involves calling someone about something.
I’ve also limited the amount of courage I need to deal with it by forbidding myself from addressing more than one item on the list. If I’ve done one task, then I don’t need to do more for that day.
I haven’t been doing it for very long, but so far it has worked well and I’ve been able to resolve several issues that have been hanging over me for a long time. It integrates well with my existing system and should be sustainable since it both increases my productivity and my mental health.