To do list

To do list

As it’s now December I’m allowing myself to write about Christmas.  One of the things that people don’t often mention (unsurprisingly) is work in the run up to Christmas – the rush of trying to fit things in and go out for lunch/leave early to meet up with friends/shop/watch the school nativity, or the rush of trying to get things more up to date than normal before the Christmas and New Year break.

That’s why Christmas is the prime time of year for the to do list, when even people who normally avoid them find themselves ticking jobs off as done whilst yet more are added to the bottom at the same time.  No wonder that most people who use a to do list feel that the lists are in charge, not themselves, and that the lists take over how they plan and look back on their days.

The to do list is also prone to cheating – for instance half a dozen items like “post letter” crossed off and leaving us feeling better, while a major job like “decorate house” is reduced to one line, and hangs around on the list for months.

This comes not just from the to do list taking over but also from how people confuse what the lists are for – is it a “can do” list for yourself, or a “feel I should do it” list?  If it’s the latter it’s not surprising if it’s more a constant source of guilt, or a regret inducing “would like to do if things were different” list.

Sticking to what you can do is one key step in making a difference.  Hand in hand with this is being honest about what you can do, and recognising when you’re putting barriers or self-limiting beliefs in your way – ideas like “I’m not going to be any good”, “I haven’t got the time”, and so on.

Making time for our “can do” list is actually the most powerful technique that we can use, so as far as possible block out periods of time to work on them.  If it’s at work then after time spent dealing with essential items first thing in the morning block out the time.  If it’s at home then block out time after any essential jobs while you still have the energy you need.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” (Rellek Publishing, 2013) regard time blocking as the key to improving the quality and quantity of what you want to achieve.  It enables you to focus, to measure your progress, and promotes the habit of getting things done that matter and make a difference to you.

Having blocked your time off there are some further techniques and habits that will help you to get the most out of it as quickly as possible.  I’ll be covering these next week – and to make sure I’ve put it on my blogging to do list, and cross referenced it with my master list of lists …

In the interim I’d love to hear from you – whether you’ve already made this work, or don’t see how this can possibly be applied to your life.