I 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.