Looking at Your To Do List

When your week wraps up — and if you’re anything like me — you’ll reflect on what you’ve done, look at what you haven’t, and start to plan for the week ahead. You check out your task management solution of choice, start transferring the things not done to another week and check out the progress you’ve made this week. That way you’ve cleared your mind for the weekend and are giving your mind a much-needed jolt when it revisits your planner come Monday.

But before you close that app or that paper planner, really look at what you checked off this week as done. While you’re at it, really look at the things that got shifted to the future — the things you didn’t check off as done. Really look at them.

Now think about your achievements for the week. How fulfilling were they? Could you have achieved more? Did you do the wrong things, making your achievements seem hollower than you’d like? How many times have you shifted that really important thing and compensated that ongoing shifting by doing the easier things just so you could see more checkmarks?

Are you doing what is really important to you … or are you just doing?

Your to-do list isn’t just a list of things to do now. It’s a map that can either get you to where you want to go, allow you to take the scenic route to your ultimate destination, or simply take you off course altogether. A map gives you many options to both get to where you want to go and get to a whole bunch of other places. And so does a to-do list.

It’s time to think of your to-do list like a map. You need to look at it throughout the process of doing. You need to decide whether you want to do more and take longer to get where you want to go or to do less and get there faster.

When I’ve taken road trips in the past, I’ve used a service my local auto club provides where they would prepare travel maps for my trip that would give me choices, allowing me to decide which route to take to get to my final destination. Imagine doing that with your to-do list. Imagine creating 2-3 variations of it, starting with one that is filled to the brim with tasks that can lead you astray. Then the second one has fewer tasks, allowing you to get to where you want to go that much sooner. Finally, think of a third iteration of the list. The one that is as direct as possible. When it comes to productivity, that one is the most appealing, but likely not always possible to use.

When you close out one week and head into another, why not start really looking at your to-do list at that time…and I mean really look at it. Don’t just look at it as a list of things that you have to do. Look at it as a series of things that — whether checked off this week or moved to the next week — deserve more consideration because the person who created the to-do list deserves more consideration. Take that time to really look at it.

Because you’ll get far more out of it than you would expect when you do.

Photo credit: Bart Luyckx (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)