Your To-Do List

Sorry, But Your To-Do List Needs an Intervention.  

I’m glad you’re here – please, take a seat. There’s something we need to tell you.

(Pulls out paper from pocket, unfolds it, and starts to read)

All of us here at the Crouch & Associates family love you, and that’s why it’s so important – and so hard – to have this conversation with you. But they said it would be best if we just ripped off the bandaid, so to speak, so here goes:

Your To-Do List needs to go to rehab. Right now.

Wait, don’t get up! Please sit down and listen. We’re telling you this because we all love you and want you to get the help you need. Here, just listen.

You see, we’ve been watching you fail at To-Do Lists for a long time. The downward spiral hasn’t been pretty to witness, and we know the feeling of despair and frustration. We’ve all been there.

Take me, for example. I would take a clean sheet of paper on Monday morning and write down as many things as possible – items I wanted to accomplish sometime in the future. The more items on the list, the better the list, right? Sometimes I even used the back of the paper. Big stuff, little stuff, trivial stuff, it didn’t matter. And writing that list was such a big feat, that I’d usually take a break afterwards. You know, I earned that break. It wasn’t easy capturing 35 things on a To-Do List! I’d cruise the internet, check Facebook, bother a colleague, call home … all the things we see you do.

Well, then it was finally time to tackle that list. Where would I begin? I wanted some momentum, so I looked for the low-hanging fruit. If my list contained 35 items, I headed to the “26-35 Aisle” and knocked off some things in rapid-fire. Wow, look at those checkmarks! I was … what’s the word? Oh, yeah: #Winning. And you know what that meant – time for another break. I mean, it was 11:15 a.m., and technically, lunch was within an hour, so no need to exert myself, right? As soon as lunch was over, I’d really dive into this list, I’d tell myself.

The afternoon. Go time. Let’s roll up these sleeves – wait, better take a selfie and show the social media world I was serious about this list! I’d work hard, dutifully working my way up the list, telling myself that I just needed to clear out these low-level tasks to allow full concentration on the biggest, most important projects on top of my list. I mean, yes, those top few items really defined success for me and my team/organization, and they were often the most urgent and important, since I’d thought of them first. But seriously, those top items take time! And focus! And discipline! And I should really get those other little things done first. Prioritization and delegation were just words I’d heard somewhere else.

The end of the day. All those pretty checkmarks. Except they covered items 11-35 and I didn’t really accomplish anything big or valuable. Tomorrow would be different, I’d tell myself. I’d start at the top of the list tomorrow. Except tomorrow wasn’t different. There were more trivial tasks, and of course, there were more distractions. And by the end of the week, none of my “big rocks” were moved. It was like I had the best-looking mailbox in town while my actual house was falling apart.

I knew I needed help, and I found this group called Crouch & Associates. They’re performance consultants, and before you roll your eyes, just wait. They helped me. They gave me this simple tool, called the Daily High Performance List. It looks like this:

It’s a pad of paper and every day is a clean start – one page per day. Notice that this To-Do List only contains room for four items! Why’s that? Because most people have the time and capacity to accomplish four significant, organizationally-impactful things per day. And this list won’t let you just write any old thing down. Underneath the task, you have to tell yourself why that item is so important, today. It’s an awesome way of justifying what you’re telling yourself you need to do.

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