Taming the Epic To-Do List
by Allison Rimm
The to-do list can be an indispensable tool when used to mindfully manage your time. But used indiscriminately, you become its servant. The first step in making your list work for you is to be clear on what job you’re “hiring” it to do. Most of us fail to do this, and so our lists are crammed with urgent priorities we must get done immediately (send revised slides to client), important tasks we’re afraid of forgetting because they have no specific due date (book a vacation), and basic tasks that we add to the list because it makes us feel good to check something off (order more pens — done!). Then day after day, we check off the basic items, get the urgent things done (which we probably would have done even were they not on a list) and procrastinate on the other items.
To avoid this problem, I use three lists and a calendar.
Other HBR Articles by Allison Rimm
- A Scorecard to Help You Compare Two Jobs
- Knowing When to Fire Someone
- What I Learned About Helpfulness When I Used a Cane Instead of Crutches
- To Guide Difficult Conversations, Try Using Compassion
- Use a Task Map to Improve Your Team’s Performance
- A One-Page Exercise to Get Stress Under Control
- Joy at Work: It’s Your Right
- Tips for Energizing Your Exhausted Employees
- How to Keep Support for Your Project from Evaporating
- Go Ahead: Ask Your Employees If They’re Happy
- Claim Your Freedom at Work