Most people are familiar with the concept of a “To Do” list, but there are so many different ways that they are used, and their relative importance in various people’s lives got me thinking. And of course when something gets me thinking, a blog post invariably soon follows.
Along the way, I am going to touch on the “will do” question, the “must do”, as well as the “could do”. As usual, there won’t be much “telling you what to do” from my end, because the older I get the more I am convinced that telling people what to do is one of the worst ways to get them to do what you want them to do.
The “will do” question doesn’t necessarily fit with this topic, but I could not help but include a quick discussion on it. It comes from the world of HR and hiring practices, and I have seen it a couple of times recently.
When you are looking to bring someone into your organisation, you will undoubtedly look at their qualifications to see what they “can do”, because you prefer not to hire someone who cannot do the job. But more and more, HR people are also being asked to look into what candidates actually “will do”.
I’m not sure if this is a “millennial” thing, but having people decide that some tasks are beneath them is becoming an issue that more and more companies are dealing with.
Moving along to more conventional “to do” list questions, I have found that it can be quite helpful to separate things out into a “must do list”, with a timeframe, and then everything else.
Some people rank their items A, B, and C, and start with the A’s until they are done, and then move on to the B’s. Some people plan things out for the week, others on a day-to-day basis. Whatever works for you is better than nothing, but coming up with a system that becomes routine has been a key for me.
I plan things out on Sunday as I look at the upcoming workweek, slotting in important tasks among whatever scheduled events I have booked.
If you are also trying to incorporate some physical workout goals (4 times a week has been good for me) this can be useful too, in the mode of “making an appointment with yourself”.
The items that are less urgent and don’t need to be done this week still need to be housed somewhere, because you need to keep longterm ideas, projects, and goals in focus. I use a whiteboard in my office, where I keep monthly and quarterly items in view at all times.
After looking at an important item for a while, I will often begin to feel some guilt about not having started it yet, and that will usually get me to break it down into more bite-sized pieces, the first of which will then go on to my following week’s “must do” list.
But my favourite aspect of this “_____ do list” question is the one I call the “could do”list.
To me, life is all about possibilities, and I find it liberating to have a number of big ideas laid out as things that I could do, both personally and for and with my family. I even like to think this way about client families that I am working with.
Whenever I am in a leadership position with a group like this, my preferred modus operandi is to share a variety of possibilities with members of the group, and then lead a discussion where the group selects what they think is best as far as next steps.
Of course there are some choices that I might logically prefer over others, but when harmony is important, whether it be in my own family or in a client family, this method works much better that the old style authoritarian way.
This is not exactly leading from behind, a concept that some people love and others despise, but more akin to leading from within.
Now, you don’t have to do this, but you could!