Property Managers and To-Do ListsI have always made personal to-do lists. I thought I just did could not function without them. One day after cleaning my desk, I realized I had 17 to-do lists organized into a small pile with 59 uncompleted “to-dos!” Can you relate? This is a bit on the excessive side – ya think.

Now don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly believe in organization – it’s just a natural thing to me. Invite me to your home for a long enough time and I will probably want to redo your kitchen drawers, linen closet, or your office. OK, you now have “do not invite Jean” on your to-do list – I get that.

Organization, in my humble opinion, does require checklists. I thoroughly believe in checklists, particularly in the office. BUT a well thought out checklist is designed to track and accomplish a specific task, which differentiates it from a to-do list. For example, a move-in checklist has specific steps, involving specific people, and if done properly, produces happy tenants, owners, personnel, and vendors. I use checklists with great success.

Once again…don’t get me wrong –  a productive to-do list CAN be worthwhile. My to-do lists (plural here) were simply out of control! They had become unproductive, redundant, and just plain annoying.

I decided it was time to put some thought into why this was happening.

After analyzing those 17 little pieces of paper with uncompleted tasks, I discovered some interesting facts.

  • I always put the same morning routine on my to-do list at the start of the day. Did I really have to list “shower, breakfast, check email, etc?” I would probably complete these tasks in a near coma anyway.
  • Although my to-do list was meant to jump-start my day, this practice was often another way to fool myself that I was being productive and to avoid cleaning up my desk, doing the dishes, completing some necessary household chore, and more. Now, wasn’t that a convenient habit?
  • I very often made another list when I already had a list, often with the same items – another way to avoid going to work and accomplishing something productive
  • The lists were ridiculously long for the day – it was impossible to complete the list and it simply set up feelings of failure – do I need this negative habit? After all, my mother very successfully built in the guilt factor for uncompleted chores a long time ago so I don’t need any help in that area.
  • My lists were NO longer to-do lists; they were actually project lists! No wonder I couldn’t complete them in a day!

OK, it was time to take control. I made a conscious decision to change and I took some positive steps that I believe is helping me solve this bad habit and will increase my productivity in 2013 and forevermore.

  1. I created two project lists in an Excel spreadsheet so I can prioritize as needed. One is for business projects; one is for home projects. I do not put these items on a to-do list. I then destroyed the 17 to-do lists. That was enjoyable!
  2. I now review my project lists two or three times a week. When necessary I add an item to my project list. When something is completed, I cross it off and I keep crossed off items awhile to remind me I AM productive. What a great feeling!
  3. I now have my morning coffee without making a to-do list. This is kind of like giving up having a cigarette with your first cup of coffee (fortunately a habit I gave up 40 years ago). I now truly enjoy my coffee.
  4. Instead of making a list, I tackle chores I need to do like cleaning up my desk, laundry, or dishes. If I can’t do this, I simply tell myself they will be done later. I can only stand unwashed dishes so long and well, I can only go so long without clean socks and underwear. I make certain items, like exercise or writing, an action, not a “to-do.”
  5. If I do feel that I really need a to-do list for the day, it cannot exceed more than 5 items or contain routine chores or those on my project lists. More importantly, I cannot start another to-do list while working on the current one.

Is this working? So far, while not perfect, this system is much better. I am going to keep at it until “not automatically making a to-do list” is THE habit. If it stops working, I will ask myself why and make more changes.

By the way, this is my only resolution for 2013 and I AM going to keep it. I have better things planned than making non-productive lists.

Can you relate to this experience?

Are your to-do lists out of control too?

I hope this article brought you some perspective on your own productivity (or at least a chuckle). I want to wish you a successful and very prosperous New Year. I believe it is going to be a great one!

Have a great day in Property Management.

Jean Storms - Owner and Author of LandlordSource ProductsJean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.

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