When your to-do list takes on a life of its own

February 25, 2011

to-do listI am definitely guilty of doing this: Making a list of things to do for the day, not getting everything done, and then feeling bad about it. In fact, I had to stop making monthly to-dos (organize office, frame artwork for bedroom, etc.) because it was making me too discouraged re-writing the list every month.

This column in the Harvard Business Review really struck a chord with me. The author talks about how our to-do lists have become guilt lists, a compendium of everything we could possibly want to do, realistic or not. He discusses how a calendar is a better planning tool because of the finite number of hours in a day: We can only schedule so many things within a 24-hour period.

That takes us to the magic word: Prioritize.

Let’s look at my to-do list from yesterday. I’m married, with a dog but no kids; I work a full-time job; and I am training for two athletic events. Obviously, No. 1 was work, and yesterday No. 2 was an evening meeting for my parish that I had committed to. But I still had a good 3 hours to squeeze things in before work (checked off: gym, prepare dinner in the crock pot) and 2 hours between work and when I had to leave for the meeting (checked off: yoga, play with dog). The only thing that didn’t get checked off the list was to walk the dog, but my husband also played with her when he got home, so that tired her out.

If I had gone into the day without a plan or a schedule, I might have lost time scrambling for dinner, or with an energy-filled puppy on my hands and no time to pay attention to her. But my calendar, and my prioritization, helped me make time for the really important tasks.

What do you think? Do you have trouble with your to-do list? How do you manage it?

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

Image courtesy of ebby via Flickr
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