I can’t recall a time where I had nothing on my to-do list. To be honest, I can’t recall the last time I saw it getting shorter. It seems that by the time you’ve started one of the 22 items on your list, the other 25 items are still waiting there. So tomorrow when you start on the next one of the 29 items, you’ll still be staring at the 34 items on your list!
The problem is not having enough to do, it’s doing the right things. I spend the last few minutes of my day going through my list. I start by determining if each item must be done, should be done, could be done, or won’t be done. Starting with the “must-be-done's”, determine if I am the only person that can do this, or if someone else knows how to do it. If I can delegate it, it gets assigned right away. I keep it on my list to follow up, but it no longer requires my effort. If I can’t delegate it, I next determine if I can train someone to do it. If so, it again gets delegated, but now my effort is reduced to training someone. Once they’ve been trained, they can do this going forward, so it’s often worth the effort. The items left are the ones that only I can do. Going through this list, I estimate how much effort will be required to complete them. I look over my calendar for the next day, and see how much time I will have available for tasks. I pick the ones that will fit in the open spots in my calendar, leaving room for the inevitable interruptions. I write these down and label them M.I.T – Most Important Things. I’ve now selected items that must get done, and that only I can do. By selecting them the night before, I can reflect on the tasks ahead of me for the following day. This time of reflection often gives me some new approaches to the task and a great head start. As the inevitable interruptions come in the next day, I can weigh their importance against my MIT list. Most often, these are things that can be added to the to-do list, but don’t require me to address them right away. If something does come in that requires your immediate attention, recognize that you will be unable to complete things on your list. Review what is on your MIT list, add the new task, but make sure you remove something. It will probably get reviewed that evening and likely end up back on your list anyway. Throughout the day, pause briefly and ask yourself “Am I working on the most important thing right now?” If not, redirect your efforts. There are always too many good things to get accomplished. To be effective, we need to focus our attention on the most important things.