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Much To-Do about nothing

The To-Do list; Helpful tool or a “wish-list” that  never seems to fulfill its intent? It’s certainly something everyone seems to champion but is it helping you or simply helping you procrastinate?  We would all like to think of a To-Do list as means of tracking and completing tasks, but all too often it can be a trap.

The To-Do list is a great time management tool but it cannot drive your day or motivate you.  If you find yourself writing To-Do lists only to have the end of the day roll around with only half the items crossed-off the problem could be unrealistic expectations, lack of control over your time, lack of focus or all three.

If this sounds like you let me suggest the following:

Start small – To review your list at the end of a day or week and try and figure our what went wrong is a daunting task that cries out for a To-Do list of its own! So, first try to Break your “list” in to the smallest possible piece and analyze the results: What I’m suggesting is writing a one-task task list, that’s right, one task.  Pick a small project that you feel could be completed in less than 90 minutes.  While this is pointless as a way to get large multi-layered or multiple projects done it’s an excellent way to drill down to the specifics of what works or more pointedly what doesn’t work in your task-setting process and why.

If you can comfortably complete your task in 90 minutes you may get some insight into how you can better set up your lists in the future but the real reward comes if you don’t complete your task in the allotted time:  It will become remarkably clear what happened; did someone or something interrupt you? Did you underestimate the time required to complete the task or did you simply get distracted by other work or personal things? Being able to see this in the micro will help you when you start your daily or weekly planning.

Once you have these answers you can start to see where your To-Do lists may have turned from a progressive tool into pointless scribbling waiting for action. This could start you on the path to a better plan and finally use To-Do lists to help you actually get things done!

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