When the To-Do List Isn’t Getting Any Shorter
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 Paul Clement
It’s a feeling that we are all familiar with; the drowning feeling we get as things begin to pile up around us whether at work, at home or both. We get it when there seems to be no end to the projects, emails, events or chores to do and we become paralyzed by the sheer weight of our list of to-do’s that only seems to be getting larger.
I am often caught by my co-workers as I stare blankly at my list of things to-do and I feel like they must think that I have no idea what I’m doing or where to start. I would like to take this opportunity to clear my name and say that they are not always correct in their assumption (though I’m guilty of that occasionally). There are countless sources on this subject but I thought I’d share what I’ve found to be effective with helping me accomplish my work in my still very young career. I fully believe that focusing on the listed points below has allowed me to be an effective employee and teammate to my co-workers while limiting stress for all.
1. Have I already completed an item on the list?
This tends to happen as I complete projects consecutively and forget to remove them. Leaving them on the list can cause me to feel like I haven’t accomplished as much as I have or even worse, have me backtracking through my work, which can cause the aforementioned paralysis.
2. What is the very next thing that needs to be done?
I am constantly evaluating my list so I can ask myself what the next thing is that has to be done on a project to move it down the field (shameless sports reference) and whether or not I can action that project. If I can’t, I need to understand what is stopping me from doing so or set reminders to follow up on that project at a later date.
3. Is something worth doing?
This is one of the most important questions I ask myself. Is the item on the to-do list still relevant? Will it accomplish what I originally thought it would? Has it been replaced by a new initiative or resolved with a different solution? Depending on the answer to these questions you will have a better idea of whether or not you should move forward with an initiative or scratch it from your list.
Working at ISB Canada has allowed me to be a part of many projects, especially in my position where I have many co-ordination responsibilities across all our departments. Some of the best tips that I ever received were to keep only one calendar or list of projects which allows you to focus on one list rather than try to organize your time between many. In addition, staying on top of the projects you can control is going to save you a lot of stress when it comes to the deadline. Finally, never remove something from your list until it is completed or vetoed. No matter how great you think your memory is, odds are you will forget about that item and months later when you’re asked by your boss about how that item is coming along, you may have some explaining to do (I learned this the hard way).
I’m sure we all have our tricks to getting stuff done but these tips have been extremely effective for me and if any of them help you in your daily operations, then I am happy to have written this piece. If you have any of your own tricks to crossing things off that list, then please share as I welcome all the hints I can get.