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Schedule A Do List Instead

One of the most common sights I see when meeting with clients is their "To Do List".

They'll open their (more often than not) beautiful designer planners, and earnestly make lists of all the things they propose to do. I sit there certain in the knowledge they are full of good intentions, and I know they think they mean to accomplish those tasks, but so few of them actually do. Why is this?

Let's be honest, most To Do Lists get dragged from one day to the next, am I right? Is this something you've been known to do? Yep, me too, until I learnt better, then I did better. You see the conventional To Do List only serves as a reminder of all the things you've still to do, but are unlikely to get done. To be brutally honest, most To Do Lists are merely written procrastinations, which can seriously heighten your sense of anxiety and inadequacy. So what's the alternative?


Have you ever learned the phrase Vague Goals Produce Vague Results? How about What Get's Scheduled Gets Done? The first thing to do is to catch yourself on and make a conscious decision to stop dragging your To Do List from one day to the next. Often we don't know we're developing these unproductive habits until it's too late, so become aware of what you're doing, and then proceed mindfully forward from this point on.

The next thing to do is to be strict about what is important enough to make time for. Define how much time you actually have, be it within a 9 to 5 job, the personal time outside of your job or even the parental 9 to 3 school day. Chunk this time further, to accommodate immovable stuff, i.e.: a lunch break, exercise time. Then schedule your Do List, because a simple To Do List is too flimsy, whimsical and has a habit of never getting done. Using a beautifully bound designer planner, an Excel spreadsheet, or a lined piece of scrap paper, allocate each task a specific time to get done.

Think about it. You don't just rock up to the dentist when you're in the mood to have your check up, you have to make an appointment, for which you allow travel time when writing the appointment in your diary. Young people don't saunter into school or college, and then waft into the classes they fancy attending, they have a timetable to help them achieve all that's required to succeed. You have to put these kinds of systems in place to ensure everything that must get done, actually gets done.

Let's say your conventional work-related To Do List reads:

  • Schedule meeting with Bob, Chris & Jo

  • Skype Jane at Acme Products (proposal)

  • Margaret's exit interview

  • Make sales calls

Just look at how vague this list is. You're under not discernible obligation to get any of this done, by any particular time. There's no sense of urgency or importance attached to any of these tasks. Instead, allocate an appropriate amount of time for each (i.e.: 10, 30, 60 minutes), and then schedule them a start (and finish time) in your planner, just as you would a dentist appointment, for example:

  • 09.00 - 09.05: Schedule meeting with Bob, Chris & Jo

  • 09.15 - 10.15: Skype Jane at Acme Products (proposal)

  • 10.20 - 12.30: Make sales calls; regions 1-3

-- LUNCH --

  • 1.00 - 2.00: Margaret's exit interview

Of course any day or work environment is going to have unforeseen distractions to pull you off track temporarily, but scheduling your tasks in this way, will help you to refocus and leap straight back on them again, once the distraction has passed.

These exact same principles can be used by students organising their assignments or revision outside of school hours, and stay at home parents with a multitude of childcare and household tasks to complete.

If you would like some help, please feel free to get in touch, but in the meantime set your sights on scheduling your "Do List". What do you want or need to DO? How will you DO it, and when will you DO it? The days of you creating pro forma procrastination need to end, if you're serious about getting anything done.


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