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Unlocking the Secret to an Effective To-Do List

“God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.” – Bill Watterson

Overwhelmed By Your Own To Do List? I’ve often watched my own list grow exponentially and take on a life of its own! In my desire to get things done I can get so caught up with adding things to my to do list that adding “regain control of to do list” becomes my highest priority task on it!

As a leader you have some daily deadlines to meet, and that aside from the pressure of seeing to it that your team meets theirs. There are board meetings, team meetings, clients to see, and the list goes on. We also must consider family relationships, commitments, tasks and goals at home. When you consider all the responsibilities in the day of a leader, it’s truly amazing how much actually does gets done. So, how can we balance our commitments and manage our time?

Can Anyone Really Manage Time? The answer of course is no, time cannot be managed, nor can it be controlled. Time continues to go by one second at a time and stops for no one. We all have 24 hours a day and sixty minutes within each hour to work with. Technically we cannot “save” time, we cannot even waste it, get back what we didn’t use wisely or store some away to use at a later date.

Have you ever thought about “finding the time” to do a task? Time doesn’t wait for us and there aren’t any extra minutes in any given day. We have only one option, and that’s managing ourselves. Keeping track of how we use the 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds allotted to each us is the secret to living a significantly more productive life.

“We Cannot Do Everything at Once, But We Can Do Something At Once.” – Calvin Coolidge

It’s not possible to adequately meet the demands of every voice that screams for your attention to be addressed today. Even if you could address each issue, you wouldn’t have enough time to give each your undivided attention. So, the answer isn’t managing your time or your tasks, the answer is managing yourself.

Self-Control is the difference between good leaders and exceptional leaders. Those who have mastered the art of managing themselves also grow in influence by leaps and bounds. The old saying that “time is money” is true in the sense that time is life’s most valuable commodity. Those who know how to utilize the time allotted them experience astronomically higher returns in proportion to the work they do.

4 Top Tips to Write a To-Do List That Will Actually Help you Get Things Done* Belle Beth Cooper suggests four simple tips to help you write an effective to do list.

1. Break projects into tasks 2. Prioritize ruthlessly 3. “Plan ahead”–advice for which Charles Schwab paid $25,000 4. Be realistic in your planning

“Those who will not manage themselves will be trapped in the tyranny of the urgent” -JSP

Here are 4 helpful insights about self-management for leaders by Peter F. Drucker** #1 – GET THE KNOWLEDGE YOU NEED “The first practice is to ask what needs to be done. Note that the question is not “What do I want to do?” Asking what has to be done, and taking the question seriously, is crucial for managerial success. Failure to ask this question will render even the ablest executive ineffective.

#2 – WRITE AN ACTION PLAN Executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been translated into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan his course. He needs to think about desired results, probable restraints, future revisions, check-in points, and implications for how he’ll spend his time.

#3 – ACT When they translate plans into action, executives need to pay particular attention to decision making, communication, opportunities (as opposed to problems), and meetings…

#4 – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DECISIONS A decision has not been made until people know: the name of the person accountable for carrying it out; the deadline; the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve it—or at least not be strongly opposed to it—and the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.”

Having the self-awareness to understand who you are and why you function as you do, helps you to lead from your strengths. Being comfortable with yourself and functioning consistent with who you really are, enables you to effectively manage yourself and follow a to do list that conforms to your overall purpose.

*The Amazing History of The To-Do List–And How to Make One That Actually Works by Belle Beth Cooper ** “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker (Harvard Business School Publishing Corp.)

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***


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