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How To Turn Your To-Do-List Into Your Done List

Copyright 2009 Bryan Beckstead

To Do Lists have received a bad rap, and it's not the list's fault. There is nothing wrong with the concept. The problem is with the execution, or should I say the lack of execution, on our parts. There are some "experts" out there who say To Do Lists are a waste of time and are outdated and they are not worth the time it takes to write them up. They state as fact that almost all of the people who use a To Do List, (TDL), never finish what's on them. This is true, so why does this make the TDL a waste of time, as if it's the lists fault?

I have to jump in here and make a distinction before we go any farther. If all you are doing in terms of Time Management and Product Maximization is creating a TDL, then I agree, that exercise by itself is pretty futile; better than nothing, but not by much. An effective TDL has to be part of a larger, more organized and detailed strategy to really pay off dividends for you. I want to be sure you leave here with a clear picture of where a TDL fits into your overall approach to getting back control of your time and getting the greatest bang for your production buck.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's see how we can make your To Do List become your done list.

Make it Realistic There are only so many hours in the day and you can only work so many of them. Your TDL has to reflect the fact that all of the time you spend at work cannot be allocated to just straight production. This is the most common mistake people make and this mistake is where the TDL takes a bad rap. Let's say you are at your place of work for 8 hours. People schedule enough work to fill up that entire space of 8 hours and then wonder why at the end of the day that they still have 3 or 4 items left on their TDL. They forget what I call their housekeeping duties; mail, email, phone work, appointments, dealing with other staff, employees, getting back to people, allowing people to get back to you, etc. These are the vital tasks that have to be finished to keep things functioning. On one hand, we call them interruptions because they are the things that keep you from doing your Priorities but at the same time, they have to be done. You have to set aside time for these activities to be completed. To pretend they will somehow get done as well as all the things on your TDL is not realistic and it sets you up for stress and turmoil at the end of the day.

You Can Always Add to Your To Do List Accomplishing what's on your TDL should in itself become a priority to you. I have many many clients who, over the years, have credited creating and accomplishing what is on there TDL with getting them in control of their time and allowing them to accomplish much more in the same amount of time. What we are doing here is not an academic exercise. I'm not suggesting ways for you to improve your use of time as some form of intellectual rhetoric but as a way to improve yourself, a proven way to get better, faster, and more productive and to get better results. Try this routine, it works, it's highly effective and once you get hooked, you will never go back to the old way again.

Start with only one key priority on your To Do List The only qualifying criterion is that the task has to be possible to complete it in well under an hour. That's right; one key priority on your TDL for each day and it has to be Time Activated for under an hour for total completion. Do not fall into the trap of saying you can easily add 3 or 4 or 5 more items and still get them done in a day because history has taught us we been able to do that in the past. What is going to make this time any different? Success breeds more success. Try this routine not just for a day, not a week, but two full weeks. That may seem to be a long time but two weeks seems to be the point where people experience success and it has started to be a routine. Clearly, you will be doing other jobs and tasks during this two week period, your focus is ALWAYS complete the only item on your TDL. That is critically important to your new regime.

The next step is pretty clear: if you get to the two-week mark with a perfect record, and only you will be the judge of that, you add one more item to your TDL. You now will have two items on your TDL and you will go for two more weeks working on completing BOTH items on your TDL. Don't fall into the trap of jumping to three or four more things on your list; keep it to two. The failure rate is huge for people who jump from one item to four or five thinking they that have everything under control. Slow and steady wins this race.


Bryan Beckstead is the creator of the Power Empowerment Group and has been involved in the Time Management and Productivity industries for almost 35 years. If you are really serious about improving your quality of life, visit him at http://www.powerempowerment.com
FREE E-Book,
Power Time System's Top 100 Time Management Tips.
Go to http://powerempowerment.com/top-100-time-management-irrefutables.html

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