The Tyranny of the Task List

by A.C. Williams

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings”

(Hosea 6:6, NLT).


Have you ever fallen asleep in a Zoom meeting? I don’t recommend it. You wake up with a keyboard impression on your forehead and everyone else on the call wondering where you went when you disappeared. I don’t usually snooze during video calls, but I had endured four back-to-back meetings that day. Plus, I’d written two articles, edited a quarter of a 90,000-word novel, and refreshed a client’s website copy. I’d also volunteered at church over the weekend.

One might assume I’m an overachiever, but I just struggle with saying no. My to-do list soon grows to an overwhelming length. Yet each item seems important.

An outline of projects can help offer some direction so we know what to do next. The problem arises when the task list begins to control our thoughts. We ask ourselves if we got enough done, made enough headway, or tried hard enough.

We lose sleep. We don’t eat well. We neglect relationships. Why? The list becomes all that matters. Our productivity begins to define us and we convince ourselves that if we don’t perform, we’re unworthy.

Anyone else suffered this lonely existence? It’s tyranny. Even if we set out with righteous intentions, exhaustion and despair wreck our perspective, and anyone who tries to get us to rest becomes our enemy (Luke 10:38-42).

Even in the church, we perform endless labor and tell ourselves it’s ministry. It’s for the greater good. Won’t God appreciate the sacrifice of our physical and mental health when it’s in service to him?

To serve and bless others brings blessings in return. Yet, our Father declared rest as a commandment for a reason. When we allow service to overwhelm our focus, we forget to make time for relationship with Jesus. The Lord yearns for us to know him above all else, and serves as a gift we can’t ever lose.

Let’s not allow our writing and to-do lists to become our taskmasters. After all, we can only serve one Lord (Matthew 6:4). Jesus offers grace, while productivity proves the most unforgiving of tyrants.


Heavenly Father, thank you for wanting to know us and valuing our souls more than our work. Please give us the wisdom to say no and the courage to rest in you, especially when we feel we should keep working. Amen.

Amy Williams is an author and writing coach with thirteen published books in both fiction and non-fiction. A Selah Award finalist in devotions, she writes bite-size daily devos at She’s also a popular monthly contributor to two blogs ranked in Writer’s Digest’s Top 101 sites for authors. Follow her adventures and learn more at


3 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Task List”

  1. Yes. Yes. Yes. Been there and done that. but, I love your ending, Let’s not allow our writing and to-do lists to become our taskmasters. It is the truth and will bring us peace. Thanks so much for the reminder!

  2. Great insights, Amy! I’m trying to get away from the tyranny of the urgent to becoming part of God’s Ta Da’s. Takes the pressure off of me if I can look at it that way. Thanks for the refocus on Jesus.

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