I have read a lot about creating To-Do list and the advantage of them, which I completely agree with. Here is where To-Do list become dangerous or at least very hard and miserable for those trying to use them successfully. A sloppy to-do list is a source stress and wasted effort. And often times ends up with people abandoning their list for another great idea they hear about from those who have trained themselves in the proper way to use whatever that tool is they are promoting.
To keep from the above lets just spend a little time training on how to properly use a to-do list and see what we should not use it for instead of bailing on it all together and attempting yet another tool. Let’s begin with the understanding that an unorganized and unfocused to-do list is a bigger productivity hurdle than not having a to-do list at all. If you don’t have a to-do list at all, you simply do the most urgent item in front of you. It might not be a stress-free method but it’s immediate and can appear uncluttered. A “War and Peace” size to-do list, however, is confusing, it doesn’t show you what is important and urgent, and it spreads your time and creative energy thinly over incomplete and unprocessed items.
Define the Boundaries of Your To-Do List
If asked what your to-do list was for, you would likely respond, “for writing down stuff I have to do.” But if asked what it wasn’t for, what would you say? Everyone has the “put stuff you want to do on the list” part down pat, but by not defining the boundaries and limitations of the to-do list you condemn it to becoming something it isn’t and cannot effectively be.
Your To-Do List Is Not a Dumping Ground:
You should not be using your to-do list as your brain dumping area. Writing down all your stray thoughts, pieces of information, and ideas one great habit I stand behind and promote along with teach my Kidology Coaching Students, but if you’re capturing right to your to-do list you’re throwing yourself under the bus before you even get started.
Your to-do list must remain separate from whatever capturing process you use. Did you get that? Let me say it again…Your to-do list must remain separate from whatever capturing process you use. Go through your list and convert the “dumped” items into actions that belong on your to-do list or remove them and add them into another folder or folders into something like Evernote (by far my number 1 capturing, note taking, file, dump, create zone tool I use.
Your To-Do List is Not a Wish List:
You need to contact two ministry departments before Sunday regarding projects you’re working on with them? That’s a to-do list entry. It needs to be done. You want to add some type of fire and water feature into your back yard to make your neighbors jealous? That’s a wish, not a necessary task. Unless this is the weekend you’re planning on starting the jealousy project and you have a concrete task to do—buy a statue of liberty water fall with fire torch in her hand—then it doesn’t belong on your to-do list. It is not wrong to have these “wish” projects, but they do not belong in clouding your to-do list up. Again create a wish folder in Evernote and leave the to-do list simple.
Your To-Do List Is Not for Ambiguous Tasks:
Never put a “task” on your to-do list that isn’t something that someone else could just pick up your list and run with. “Computer stuff”, “clean up”, are ambiguous and not easily converted into action by others. If your ministry assistant had to take over your to-do list for the day because you were absent, how exactly would they deduce what they were supposed to clean up? Absolutely do not rely on your memory for filling in the gaps of your to-do list. Not only is it a bad practice—memory is imperfect—but it’s a waste of your time. You shouldn’t have to spend 1-2 seconds remembering exactly what you were going to clean up every time you look at your to-do list. Your to-do list should only contain items which can be acted on in an immediate and clear manner.
There are a few of the To-Do’s not To-Do’s. Go through your list and see if you have any of these. Clean them out and we will pick up some more next week.