Hop Off the Task List Treadmill
And Do the Things With Greatest Value
Many of us create a To Do list to guide our efforts. As we check off entries on our list, we create a Done list – a satisfying recounting of efforts in the bag.
“Look at that list of accomplishments!” we tell ourselves and our supervisors. “This has been a productive day!” But we may be looking in the wrong place to weigh the value of the day’s efforts. A better judge of today’s productivity is a look at tomorrow’s To Do list. If tomorrow looks just the same as today, we may have been huffing and puffing on an unrewarding Task List Treadmill that keeps us busy without moving us forward.
“Show me results!” is the battle cry of Management by Measurement. Results aren’t real progress if they don’t move us to a higher peak. Our real measurement of productivity isn’t how many check marks we make, but how many higher tasks, next steps, or fresh challenges we reach! Mere activity does not equal progress.
“Congratulations to our Measurement Champion. You averaged 25 widgets per day for the month. Nobody made more widgets!” While that sounds good today, you aren’t really the productivity champ if somebody else made better widgets or designed a new process that will average even more widgets per day in the future. Or if you were capable of making 40 widgets per day, but didn’t because you weren’t challenged.
“Show me real progress!” is the battle cry of Management by Awareness. Results are just one area of awareness, along with new business, process improvements, opportunities, comparisons, teamwork, practical applications, and shifting priorities.
When you self-manage your time by counting the number of check marks on your Done List, you’re managing by measurement and handicapped by a one-dimensional view. To get off the Task List Treadmill and make real progress, start your day not with a Task List, but a Focus List. With a Task List, top priorities are assigned to tasks that make the most noise. With a Focus List, your priorities are established by the value of the outcomes you will achieve. You begin by identifying the one, two, or three areas of focus that will move you to a higher position, a next step, or fresh perspective.
When you’ve established your areas of focus, now you prioritize the tasks that will keep you on Focus First. You still have your task list with routine chores that must be done and you’ll still give yourself check marks to measure your activity. But now there’s a big ‘plus’ – the additional power and satisfaction of getting the right tasks done to raise your focus to a higher level. A focus list isn’t another list in addition to your task list, it is choosing wisely from your existing single list by highlighting and tackling first those tasks that relate to your most important goals. That turns your energy-burning task list into a goal-reaching focus list.
And it turns you into a more satisfied worker and influential leader.