Have you ever had one of those to-do lists that grows faster than it shrinks, where every day people keep adding to the list for you as much as you add to it yourself?
What about the feeling when you clear a good chunk of things off the list, especially the one or two things which have been on there for a really long time and were niggling away at you each time you looked at them.
One feeling’s great right, one a lot less so. But it’s the lot less one which can tend to dominate most days (and sometimes nightmares).
So here’s a useful approach for owning to-do lists, every day.
You own it, it doesn’t own you!
First off, you’ve got to believe you’re the one who’s in control of what goes on the list and importantly what doesn’t.
As I talked about in the post about the Roller Coaster ride that is reaching your Goal, there are things in your control (in this case what you put on the list) and there are things in your Environment you can’t control (what people put on your list). I’ll talk about how to consider each of these later.
But to begin, you have to get your head around the fact your to-do list is exactly that – YOUR to-do list.
So pop the excuses in the bin and own it!
Be honest with yourself
With this “ownership” mindset to your list, work out when you have to have completed each task by.
If you don’t have a deadline, consider when the critical time will be for not completing that task. Will it be a financial penalty? Will it cost you respect of others?
Whatever the tipping point is will differ for each task. The key thing is to identify when the consequences of not completing the task in time will really matter to you.
Now, if you can’t find a consequence of value, think back to times when not completing a task has irked you and what in particular you were irked by.
If then you still can’t find a consequence, should it really be on your task list? The honest answer is probably no, so get it off that list.
And if you’re thinking “but someone else wants me to do it”, ask yourself the same consequence questions above.
Some tasks will stay on there, some won’t. Just remember for the one’s that don’t stay on list, manage the expectations of the person asking by letting them know your valid rationale as to why you won’t be able to do it in time. This will send a positive message to person about your character.
Map it out
A list is great, and the feeling of achievement from crossing things off it is even greater.
However with deadlines on some tasks, visualising that deadline and the work required to achieve it can be difficult in amongst the meetings and events in your calendar.
So why not use your calendar to your advantage and block out time for your tasks on the day you need to complete them by.
Work in 15 minute chunks. It’s easier to manipulate most calendar apps that way).
If there’s small items, rearranging a dentist appointment and or setting up a meeting with a colleague for example, group the small items into a 15 minute chunk and write the tasks in the event header.
What you then have to do is commit to completing the tasks in the time you’ve allocated. This is critical.
Don’t go moving them, you’ll only have yourself to blame when you don’t get things done.
Now the first big payoff of adopting this approach is you get things ticked off the list more often, and as mentioned earlier, that’s a good feeling.
You also get another bigger payoff from having visibility of all tasks you need to do.
When you decide to bring new tasks onboard, you can assess how important they are, when they need to be completed by AND see what capacity you have for completing them.
When your Environment brings new tasks to you, you can easily factor in the work you need to do and when you can do it through having that visibility.
But the biggest payoff of all – you’re in control.
There’s nothing worse than that feeling of having too much on your plate and someone comes and says “can you just…” and it’s 4 hours work.
By having visibility of all your priorities and deadlines, you can make the necessary adjustments to factor in any request that comes in from your or others, and still keep ticking things off that to-do list every single day.
Over to you, remember you’re in control
I’ve seen this work for lots of people, especially those who kick off every day with a review of their calendar to see what they’ve got lined up.
So the final choice is to stay getting frustrated with a growing to-do list, or to strap your boots up and get on with owning it.
And if you’re still struggling, give me a call and I’ll help you help yourself find a way to take control.
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