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Completing the ‘To-Do List’

By sealenterprises, Aug 21 2015 09:19AM

Completing the ‘To-Do List’

I do not know about you, but I am always writing things down such as contact details, websites, notes, memos and things that I need to do for the following day. These reminders eventually grow into a list - a list that I well know which probably stands no chance of being completed. But I do it anyway, almost religiously, every day.

When I first started to write ‘to-do’ lists, I thought it was because my memory was starting to become impaired. However, on balance, since I have been writing down lists of things that I needed to remember, I do find that on balance I am far more efficient with my use of time.

The writing down of the ‘to-do’ list became an almost cathartic exercise, an evening ritual, that would find me scribbling down my running order, a chronological itemised time schedule for the following day’s business. Each evening I would go to bed safe in the knowledge that I would not miss an appointment or fail to contact a client, even worse, forget the shopping order my wife had diligently written down on a ‘list’!

I found that contrary to my worries, the writing down of ‘to-do’ lists, allowed me to free up some space in my brain to think of other things I had previously not had time for, safe in the knowledge that I would be reminded of them tomorrow. An analogy would be the hard drive in your PC: once it is full, your PC starts to run inefficiently until it cannot function any longer. The only way to rectify the situation is to clear some space on the hard drive so that the PC can operate correctly once again. Writing your thoughts or itinerary down on a piece of paper serves to clear a space in your memory, allowing that free space to be utilised for something else instead.

The problem is that the list can grow and grow into an unmanageable set of things that have no chance of realistically being completed the following day. The act of making the list has now become a monster that needs to be fed on a daily basis. The list itself now needs a set of sub-lists in order to control the functionality of the prime lists, lists that support super lists.

These super lists can grow to become a source of stress in themselves and just keep getting bigger. Why? Because there are always things to add to the list, and remember, we like adding to the lists, because we firmly believe it is our saving grace and by now we cannot live or operate without it.

So how does one go back to using a greatly reduced, practicable and realistic list of doable items?

If one realistically scans over your average ‘to-do’ list and considers the number of items on that list, one will discover that there are way too many items on the list to be realistically achieved in the time scale you have allowed for its completion. One therefore needs to quantify each item on the list with regards to its importance against time to complete each item, ranking each one in order of preference. If one then aims to complete at least 50% of these items on any one day, then one has at least accomplished a realistically achievable goal.

The other items that did not make the cut will have to be added to any future list and ranked accordingly. In other words, if you have ten things to accomplish on your to-do list for tomorrow, yet your experience is telling you that probably only 3-5 will actually get done, then they are the ones that will surface to the top of the ranking order. It is better to do 3-5 jobs really well, than to rush and be unprofessional trying to achieve all 10. In addition, it is far less stressful, hugely satisfying and rewarding when one completes the to-do list within the time allotted - success!

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