The dreaded and ever lengthening to-do list strikes fear into the hearts of most business owners. From the crumpled up bits of paper to the incorrectly used weekly planner. Our infatuation with “getting things done” has evolved into “trying to do everything.”The good news is – your to-do list is, for all practical purposes, a myth.
Your to-do list can’t be all that important. If it were important, it would be a to-done list. That’s not to say, of course, that the things on the list aren’t meaningful, it’s just that they aren’t urgent enough to stop the presses and change your behavior.
In order to conquer the to-do list, we have to accept the first step.
- Stop creating them.
When we create a to-do list, we are creating an obligation in time. We are committing some future version ofourselves to do something that we don’t want to do, or can’t figure out how to do now.
If you don’t want to go through your customer database now; what makes you think you will want to do it later? Even if you have “no time” now and “plenty of time” later, you won’t use either time wisely when you create a to-do list. Creating a to-do list is similar to eating healthy one meal a week. It does not actually help do anything but fool you into thinking that you are making progress. A to-do list is a joke you are playing on yourself.
- Find a way to do whatever it is – now.
Build time into your schedule to complete traditional to-do’s before they happen. Consider sending out email notes from a meeting immediately after rather than “sometime tomorrow.” You get such actions out of the way quickly and it frees your mental processes for more productive action. Aggressively adhere to your schedule. It is easier than trying to “make it up” later with to-do’s or office time.
Help others do it now, too. There will be some initial resentment here when you ask people to act in the moment. When done well, asking for help is one of the most effective ways to bond with another individual. When it happens at the wrong time, however; it can sour even the strongest friendships. Fortunately for most of us, it is easy to help others help you. By creating opportunities for people to help you now, you aid others by preventing the creation of more to-do’s.
- When doing it now is impossible, create a future “now” to complete the task in.
Create and adhere to a schedule where time is alloted on a task by task basis. Don’t try to have 90 minutes of “office time;” rather try having 5 minutes of “complete the Johnson invoice” and 5 minutes of “review the direct mail service providers.”
This may sound like creating a new to-do list, but it is not. Instead you are creating time blocks that are dedicated to the present moment. As each moment of time arises, new presents and new present tasks become available. Let each piece of allocated time be spent honestly attempting the pursuit at hand. Being distracted with future tasks or past tasks robs you of the only moment that allows freedom – Todo lists rob us of that freedom and trap us in time.