Itch the Voodooist

Advice so bad, I couldn’t have heard right

4 min readApr 30


Photo by Jessica Flavia on Unsplash

Lady Mondegreen

Repeating misundertood lyrics is common enough that Sylvia Wright assigned the term “mondegreen” in the 1950s. And sometimes a mistake is the logical explanation. Take the unlikely hit, “I Like Girls” by Elton John. It was every fifth song on only the radio station that played in the lab at work one summer. Weeks went by before a colleague corrected me. “It’s Island Girls.” OOOHHHH! That makes more sense. Elton’s conversion would have made the news.

Bad advice

And so it is with advice so cosmically bad, you have to make the speaker repeat what they said to be sure you aren’t creating your own mondegreen.

Take the latest admonition that we “Itch the voodooist.” Many recognized names in the #productivity space are shaking the stick.

Come again?

“Ditch the to do list,” they repeat, like a toddler who just spoke a bad word. “Lists are too long and they bully us into what to work on next.”

Sweet mercy. Play me a Calm meditation.

Put a pin in it

Now, smart people are willingly giving their time and attention to these reckless advisors, but it’s just the packaging that mesmerizes. Once opened, it’s hollow. Here are five points and counterpoints. By the end, you’ll be glad you kept your to-do list (and your not-to-do list, but that’s for another day).

Lie #1: Intentions are better than tasks

Proponents of this nonsense suggest you merely intend to be a certain way or achieve an outcome. But which way? Which outcome? If you don’t have a list (or stack of index cards, for me), how do you know you’re being the most effective you, or working on the thing that’s actually due first thing tomorrow morning? If your department’s budget is due tomorrow and you haven’t started, you better be mathy and get the Excel template filled in.

Lie #2: Use time-blocking

These folks might theme for their days or block chunks of time from meetings to work on Something Big and Important. Now, how is the practitioner going to remember all of the accounts that need follow up actions…




Jesus, Recovery, Grace. Finding My Manageable through experimenting, upcycling, and course-correcting with the Harada Method.