The Productive Leader Blog
Improving Leadership Effectiveness One Task at a Time
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The Productive Leader Blog

Making A List And Checking It Twice

Making A List And Checking It Twice

No… not talking about Santa’s list.  I’m talking about your TO DO list.  If you’re putting EVERYTHING on your list you are probably overwhelmed.  Before you say YES to a task or opportunity, run it through a filter list that helps you sort the yes’s from the no’s:

Possible Filter List Questions:   

  • Will it help someone or something important to me?
  • Will it help me grow personally or professionally?
  • Will it help me reach my goals?
  • Will I have fun doing it?
  • Will it give me joy?

Not sure? Ask yourself:

  • What’s the worst thing that will happen if I say NO?
  • Why should I say YES, and why should I say NO?
  • If I say YES to this, what will I be saying NO to?

If the answer isn’t clearly “yes”, then it probably should be “no.”

Last week I wrote about setting up your to-do list by priorities so that you didn’t have to copy the same information over and over again.  This concept captures the new way of managing time.  The reality is that no matter how hard we work or how organized we are, we can no longer get everything done.  When planning how to use our time I have found it most effective to group my to-dos into priorities.  Many time-management gurus have their own methodology.  Mine is a hybrid – based on what I’ve seen WORK with clients over the past 12 years.  As with everything I do, it’s easy, because we’ve learned – if it’s not easy it doesn’t happen.

Critical – must be done today before I leave the office or go to bed

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I received a question from one of you this week.  JW writes: I am a true list maker. I make a “to do” list every single day. Only problem is that I use several different types of note pads and don’t throw the list away each day. (some days I’m better than others).  Therefore, I have various lists on kitchen counter, desk in my office, night table. Then I spend a few minutes each day merging the lists, etc. I realize it’s a definite waste of time and was wondering if there are others like me.

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As we go through our busy days we are pulled in many directions.  Deciding what actually priorities are, isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Is it working on the project plan for your team/boss/self?  Is it attending another meeting?  Is it making time to exercise or getting to your child’s concert on time?  Is it choosing to answer the phone or the emails?  It is truly hard to decide.

Interestingly enough, the word DECIDE comes from the Latin word decidere, which literally means to cut off (from de- + caedere to cut).  When you decide to do one thing you are CUTTING OFF the opportunity to do something else.   No wonder this is difficult!

To help you DECIDE what your priorities are, I recommend creating a filter list.  Run your options through the filter and see which items are big enough to not fall through.  Here is the criteria I use for my “Must Do Today” filter:

If I don’t do it today:

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If you’ve subscribed to my weekly tips for awhile you’ll know that I try to get away a couple of times a year for a few days of retreat.  I’ve just returned from Kripalu (http://kripalu.org/about_us/435/) and feel much more clear and focused.  I’m pretty sure that this quiet week of learning and renewal is one of the best things I do to keep myself productive.

With the numerous demands in today’s crazy-busy world, good productivity practices focus on doing the work that matters most.  But, when our minds are full, and bodies exhausted, it’s hard to think clearly enough to know which exactly those things are.  Quite and reflection helps me to identify where in-fact my priorities lay. It helps me identify what my most important work is.

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Imagine every email is a phone message you had to return! I suspect that means you are spending your entire work day on the phone and not getting to your important work. If you put your email responses through the same filter as your phone call responses you’ll reduce the volume and focus on the most important messages. 

  • You may think it’s polite to answer each and every email – but it’s not. Email etiquette suggests you only respond when useful.
  • When you see a big list of people who are copied, it’s ok to take people out of the response list if your response isn’t relevant to them.
  • It’s ok to decide that an email string isn’t a top priority and delete it. Remember, only you are in control of how you use and manage your time.

And don’t forget that your email inbox isn’t a storage location. If you don’t need the email anymore, file it, or even better – DELETE it!