I make lists, mostly for short-term daily goals, but also for long term goals. For most of us, lifetime goals are organized into a “bucket list,” while annual goals mapped out on January 1st and updated quarterly are typically labeled “resolutions.” My daily to-do list includes key tasks, phone calls, emails and exercise. I try to chunk tasks together for optimal efficiency and love to create “found time” by listening to educational podcasts while running, responding to emails while waiting for meetings to start and cleaning up my call-back list while driving (using a hands-free device). There’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you cross that last task, email or phone call off the list and finish the day.
But how many of those things never should have made it onto the list in the first place?
How many of the meetings we go are twice as long as they need to be, include the wrong people or are wholly unnecessary? How many end without a concrete follow-up plan or next steps?
As we spend hours pursuing “in-box zero,” and checking social media feeds, it makes sense to wonder whether we really need to send all of those emails and Facebook messages? Do we need really need take that last look at Instagram?
Is everything on your to-do list really that important or meaningful? Will it make a difference tomorrow, next week or next year? Do the things on today’s list relate to your goals for the year or are you rushing through those tasks, hoping to have time to do the really important stuff?
Before adding things to your to-do list, carefully consider the impact and importance of each item. Doing a bunch of meaningless stuff fast isn’t productive. Working hard is easy; working smarter takes some strategic thinking and tough decisions.
For every new thing you add to your list today, take something off. The important stuff will rise to the top.