Checking Off Your To Do List

 Yesterday I wrote the following about To-Do Lists : “ The To-Do List – the bigger it gets the less I want to tackle it.  The to do list is full of TASKS!  What’s fun about a task?  But often times when my wife asks when I get home “how was your day?” I respond with “well I did a lot, but I didn’t actually achieve much.”  Is your to do list taking up all your time on medial tasks? 


As an executive your job is to steer the company in the right direction, and to do that, you need to have time to day dream, research the industry, and most important, have a little fun while you’re doing it.”

I have nothing against To-Do Lists, in fact, I make mine digitally so that it’s on my iPad, iPhone, and computer so I’m literally never without it.  If something comes up that I need to take care of later I just type it out on my list and it updates it everywhere.   If you’re wondering how I do this, I use Awesome Note.  When I’ve got my To-Do List ready, I email it to myself so it’s in my Outlook.  Without this list I’d be lost.  But with this list, I’m often overwhelmed.  Below are a few things I have found that make the To-Do list more tolerable and easier to work with.

  1. Set yourself up to win– Don’t put every little thing on your list.  I made this mistake very early in using To-Do Lists.  After a while the list gets so big there is actually no possible way to do everything.  Then it’s just discouraging.  When you feel overwhelmed by the list you will begin to feel devastated.  However, if you make it sort of easy, understanding that more things will come as the day grows on, you’ll set yourself up for a win.  You’ll feel good about the dint you put into it and that will motivate you even more.
  2. Tasks that you can do right now, you should do –  As they say, there is no better time than the present.  Lets be honest, you could probably finish the task by the time you finish writing it down anyway, so just do it.  Don’t use your To-Do List as a crutch.  Writing “Do Such and Such” isn’t the same as doing it, so don’t let it.
  3. Only put things on that you’ll forget – Don’t put “take kids to school” on your list.  Do you really need to be reminded to do that?
  4. Limit your list to 7 things – Sounds crazy I know but it’s a good way to allow yourself to only focus on the important stuff.  If you could only do 7 things today, what would they be?  Obviously you’re going to choose things that will make the biggest impact.  This is 80/20ing your To-Do List.  Do the 20% of the things that achieve 80% of your results, save the rest for later.
  5. Put small things on reminders– Pick up water at the store is not To-Do worthy.  But it is important.  If you’re like me and use an iPhone, it now comes with a cool reminders app.  You can set it to remind you at a specific time or when you leave/arrive somewhere.  Now when you leave the office “pick up water at the store” will pop up on your iPhone.  These little tasks are meant to be performed in transition.  They are not To-Do Tasks. 
  6. Add at least 1 fun thing – I picked this up from Matthew McConaughey. “I’ll put fun things on my list to give me more things to cross off,” he says. “Like, ‘surf for an hour.’ When you get to one near the bottom and it says, ‘Watch Monday Night Football,’ it’s like, yeah!”
  7. Try to clump it up – If you can, you should tackle tasks on your list in clumps.  I like to focus on busting out 3 items.  Then I do something fun, or I’ll work on something else, maybe even take a stroll through the shop and look at production.  By clumping your list, you can achieve great productivity in a focused surge, but you can also allow some recovery time an pace yourself.  It’s not a race to finish the list, but you do have to finish it.

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