Many of you were trained to create to do lists every day. If the list got too long, you were taught to determine what is most important and then to prioritize A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. That system may have worked before we all became very busy and over-worked and our lists got longer and longer.
As a result, many of the things that needed to be done, go unfinished.
There are many reasons for this. Some reasons are totally out of our control. Yet you would be surprised to learn how many times we are the cause for our own lack of accomplishments.
According to research from iDoneThis (a project tracking software provider), almost 67% of professionals write to do lists, yet only 41% of all to do list tasks actually get done.
The Problem with To Do Lists
According to Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, to do lists have three major problems:
They don’t consider how much time a task will take.
To do lists are a great way to do a brain dump about everything we can think of that needs to get accomplished. This is an excellent start. But often that’s as far as it goes. We need to estimate how long each task will take. Without knowing that vital piece of information, we can’t plan accordingly.
They don’t distinguish between which ones need immediate attention and which ones are less important.
Traditional to do lists don’t necessarily distinguish between which ones are critical vs urgent vs important. This information is needed to properly schedule when the tasks need to be completed.
They contribute to stress.
These traditional to do lists that never seem to get shorter add to our tension levels. Just knowing that you have so much unfinished business, drains your energy and often prevents you from accomplishing what’s most important. It actually leads to procrastination.
Suggestions for Improvement
I’ve long been an advocate for the concept of time blocking (see my blog: (http://polarisone.com/blog/help-i-need-to-get-organized-once-and-for-all) My theory is that if you can’t plan what a perfect day looks like on a piece of paper, you have no hope of carrying out in real life.
Before you create that ideal day or week, get really clear on what’s important to you.
What are those key goals that you want to achieve? Each one of your to do’s must support those goals. If not, you’re wasting time.
Once you have that clarity, you can now begin to craft what your idea schedule should look like. Figure out how much time each task needs and then actually block off that time in your real calendar, much as you would an appointment for your best client.
Then show up at the appointed time and work on that task.
Your ideal week should also include both business and non-business activities to help maintain a good work/life balance. (For a sample Ideal Work Week, go to http://polarisone.com/free-book and download my book What Every Great Salesperson Knows, A No Nonsense Guide To Sales Success for free.)
Make Actionable Statements
For an even more powerful approach to getting more of your to do list completed, once you have eliminated the non-essential or non-important items, convert the ones that are left into actionable statements. A well written action statement will take the guesswork out of what you need to do to accomplish it. It should be broken down into manageable small steps that will be easier to check off as complete.
Charlie Gilkey suggests that each action item be written as if you were writing it to someone else. This will make it easier to recall what needs to be done.
Action items should include as much useful information as possible. For example, when does it need to be completed? Does it need to be turned in or forwarded to someone other than you? Once you complete it, do you need to track any next steps? Can the task be assigned to someone else? If so, what background do they need to know?
In other words, tasks that get scheduled in your calendar that are written as action items stand a much greater chance of getting accomplished.
Determine Your Optimal Time of Day
Here’s a secret I learned many years ago. Determine what time or times during the day you are the most productive. Don’t squander that time by doing mundane tasks like checking email or social media. Leverage that time to make a real difference in your personal and business life.
Good luck on your journey to success.