“To Do” Lists Don’t Do It
I coach a lot of people who are bright, high energy, and successful, but who aren’t operating at anywhere near peak performance because they manage their time inefficiently. I’ve come to realize that the more they try to organize, the less organized they are.
The primary culprit is the “to do” list (TDL). They faithfully record what needs to be done tomorrow, the day after, next week, ad infinitum, a constantly growing serpent that reaches vast, entangled proportions.
When everything is a priority, of course, NOTHING is a priority. Worse, listing things becomes an end in and of itself, as if some kind of action has been taken. If that were the case, writing your resume would result in a career.
Here’s the advice of someone whom time begs to give it a break—me. Do not make TDLs. Instead, plug anything you feel you must do—personal or professional—into your physical calendar (e.g., a Filofax). Give it a date and time, and treat is as sacrosanct, the equivalent of a client meeting, which you’d never blow-off just because you have something else on a list somewhere.
Never put more than six tasks on a day, three in the morning and three in the afternoon (unless you’d prefer to work hard when you’re fresh in the morning and take the afternoon off—feel free to match your life style). Don’t feel the need to complete a task in one time frame—”chunk” them. I don’t sit down to write a book chapter, I write a quarter of a chapter at a time (one hour). If I have two dozen people to call for referral business, I’ll call four per day for six days. I’ll create a workshop in an hour one day, and spend a half-hour the next day arranging for the hotel and logistics.
It’s true that making lists and crossing off items as they’re completed provides a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. But your not at the local supermarket buying cheese, you’re trying to grow your business and attend to your life. That TDL will grow and remain a part of you, like a parasite, forever. But today will disappear before you know it.
Make better use of today.
© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.