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  • Writer's pictureWarrick

Busy little bees (or ants)

Staying productive when to-do lists get long

Hello fellow Protagonists,

Opening my diary in the morning and one thing is for certain, my to-do lists have become too long again.

An email here and I will just add that to the list. A phone call there, also put that on the list. By the end of the day the A4 sheet is full.

Maybe I can squeeze that last point in the corner so I don't have to move on to a second sheet!

This can lead us to feel busy, I mean look at all the stuff I need to do. Look how busy and therefore important I am.

This sounds lovely but busy is not the same as productive.

I know that the busier my list gets the more unproductive I become.

In reality what begins to happen is that those same actions get carried across to the next day, then the next day, then the next day. All the while new actions are being added.

Those “big win” goals get lost like deer in a forest.

It starts to feel like we are just re-writing the same list each day. This is not good for our motivation and not good for the ink in my pen.

We need to see lists wiped, lines drawn through stuff and boxes ticked off. Like we have achieved what we have set out at the beginning of the day.

No wonder we can start to feel like we are on a never ending treadmill.

When we find ourselves in this position it is time to return to basics.

If you could achieve your top 3-5 most important actions of the day, each day, how would you feel?

I mean the 3-5 seriously important things that will really send us in the right direction.

That would potentially be 15-25 important achievements for the average working week, every week. That sounds like some major ground.

By writing down and tackling the 3-5 most important tasks of the day, we have a focus to stick to. We want the most bang for our buck and this is how to achieve just that.

If in doubt we can quality check these goals by asking a simple question.

"What goals can I achieve today that would leave any other goal insignificant?"

The challenge then becomes actually sticking to those tasks as the day is unfolding.

People will call asking for favours, emails will come flooding in with urgent notifications even though they are far from urgent (we all know that one person who believes all of their emails are urgent).

These are the tasks that take us away from the important stuff and can easily lead us to the end of a day where we are not sure what we have actually managed to achieve.

If we are left with this question, the answer is that we have managed to achieve pointless bullshit tasks.

Some tasks will unfold in the day that are urgent, seriously though how many of our emails and calls would fall under this category... 1%, 2% if you want to be nice.

No, chasing up an incorrect sandwich filling someone received is not going to get done today, or possibly ever (sadly a true scenario and I do not even work in the catering industry).

All those other sandwich filler requests and tasks need to be pushed to the side. If there is time after completing our bigger, tastier goals then we might consider them. Might is the key word here.

Trust me, the benefits of frequently achieving our most important goals will massively out-way a couple of pissy emails and minor missed deadlines that nobody really cares about anyway.

If we know we are about to leave bullshit tasks behind then we need to try our best to not be left with them in the first place.

Busy people say yes a lot, productive people say no a lot.

When asked why a certain task has not been completed, be honest and say that it was not a priority. Then be ready to back up what your priorities were, which will be easy as your daily to-do list had only 3-5 things on it.

I remember a comment made by my first manager about a decade ago. There was this hard working member of staff on my team, always running around and was always busy.

I loved working on shift with them as it felt a lot got done.

I mentioned how much they seemed to fit into a day to my manager and they told me something I have never forgotten.

"Some people act like worker ants, busy but that's not usually management material"

An interesting perspective and I wouldn't personally use the same wording myself but it stuck with me and as time went on, completely understood her point.

A good manager knows what is important. They know which tasks need completing, which tasks need delegating and which tasks to use as toilet paper.

So my to-do lists are returning to the simplicity that The Daily Buff loves so much. A clear focus on the things that matter most.

Try is out and see what happens!



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