top of page

The real "to-do" list

We all make to-do lists. Many of my clients have stacks of them. In fact, sometimes when we are organizing, we actually spend time organizing their to-do lists into little piles based on date or urgency. There is something ludicrous in this perhaps. But I'm looking at my own desk right now and I have a two different lists going myself. How does this happen? In my case it's a matter of different lists for different days and since I didn't get everything done on the first day, I just started a second list for the second day. And what happened to the first list, you might ask? Well, so far it has survived on my desk for a week or more...still unfinished. I've thought about this and I know whay. The things I have not checked off the list fall into two categories: Big or scary projects I don't want to conquer, like making a website or writing thank you notes for the 30 people who attended a fundraiser, OR the miniscule items that are so unimportant they keep falling to the bottom of the list.

So here's my proposal. And this is not original. The most recent author I've read to whom it can be partly attributed is Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, among other great books. Every day, try to accomplish 1 important thing. Instead of running around making lists and running around trying to cross them off, figure out what is that one thing you can do today that will actually advance you forward. If you do this, you will see a pattern emerge. You don't do the important stuff because it takes up too much time and you don't have time to do the important stuff because you are running around buying coffee filters and returning library books and you just don't have time. But what happens is if you spend the majority of your time on the big things, the things that will actually make your life better, keep you out of jail, keep you out of the grave and so on? You will soon find that you have plenty of time for the small things. Recall that feeling you get right after you drop your taxes off to the accountant, or get that long overdue physical. It's a feeling of relief. Whew! Glad that's done. And then you feel euphoric and suddenly the idea of picking up Spot's medicine at the vet seems easy. You don't mind a bit. As you are driving to the vet, you don't have that "thing" hanging over your head. Everything seems clearer. All because you got that "thing" out of the way. Big projects (or small but dreaded projects like calling someone to apologize) are like roadblocks. They stop the flow. Picture a stream getting blocked by a fallen branch. What happens? The branch begins to collect leaves and twigs and soon insects build nests and maybe even beavers move in and then your stick has become a dam. A damn dam for goodness sakes! The answer? Move the stick. Every day, move the stick. Find that one thing and get it done. Even if it takes hours. Even if it takes all day or days. Turn off the phone, disengage from social media, don't check your email. Just get that thing done. This is life-changing advice, even if I didn't make it up myself. Try it and you'll see. Move the stick.

bottom of page