The list is great until something pops up and takes precedence. That thing (a purchase order that needs to be straightened out, planning a new research activity, or a messy student media project that needs to be untangled) blows the to-do list out of the water. The to-do list starts to become a guilty annoyance rather than a productivity tool.
I got some clarity from a great blog called Zen Habits. The post Kill Your To-Do List really resonated. It is a short post and worth clicking through to read.
Does this describe your to-do list?
"They’re long, you never get to the end of them, and half the time the tasks on the list never get done. While it feels good to check items off the list, it feels horrible having items that never get checked off. This is all useless spending of mental energy, because none of it gets you anywhere.
The only thing that matters is the actual doing."
"The One Thing System
- I wake up in the morning, and decide what One Thing I’m excited about.
- Then I focus on doing that, pushing everything else aside, clearing distractions, and allowing myself to get caught up in the moment."
This system doesn't include the regular day-to-day things you are going to do anyway. Those things are variations on your routine obligations. The One Thing System prioritizes your time and energy to focus on your vision and passion. Imagine the liberation of a to-do list with one item, and it is something you are excited about.
There are still days that are overwhelming, and the to-do list never really goes away. But my mental One Thing helps me carve out time for what I value. Like blogging : )
Flickr Creative Commons
:- To Do
by Rob Ward