I am great at making to-do lists. Right now I have a paper list at my office, one in Outlook tasks, and two or three on scraps of paper at home, including one that’s buried in a pile of bills and paperwork that needs filing.
No surprise – my “system” is clearly not working. As my colleague David Wheatley says, you get what you schedule. He recommends that you eliminate to-do lists and just put it on the schedule.
Most people use some form of a web-based calendar, but this system works on a pencil-and-paper version too. Rather than collect multiple, independent lists that can go missing, assign tasks to time on your calendar. If you don’t do it during the allotted time, move it to a different slot.
David uses Google calendar creatively to make sure he focuses on his most important work. He starts each day with a number of calls and other work populated in the “wee hours” on his calendar. Each morning, he drags each task from it’s 2:00 a.m. holding spot into an available slot during the day. In this way, he knows what he wants to accomplish and when he will do it.
Scheduling your to-dos creates the expectation that things will get done at a certain time – a great improvement over the “do-this-maybe-sometime” lists I have been creating (and losing). Scheduling also has a built-in feedback mechanism. If you keep moving that task, is it something you’re really committed to do?
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