How to develop better ‘to do’ lists…

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Do you overcommit yourself? Regularly take on too much work? Have a “to do” list that manages you (instead of you managing it?) Here’s how to get better to do lists…

I love my “to do” list but some days it grows to monstrous proportions. I readily admit that I frequently take on way too many tasks. Then I’m faced with the distressing prospect of “carrying over” many tasks to the next day. And I confess that this cycle can continue for days on end.

Recently, I’d taken to doing one mildly clever thing: I separated my list into two parts: regular tasks and “fast” tasks, that I could accomplish in five minutes or less. This gave me a better at-a-glance understanding of how much time I needed to allot. (And when I wanted to feel ultra-efficient, I knew I could tackle one of the fast tasks, get it finished and have a little rush of endorphins.) But, lately, even this strategy hasn’t been helping me nearly enough.

I knew it was important to start doing less, so I started researching on the issue. Here’s how Warren Buffett approaches it: He requires his employees to list the top 25 projects or priorities they wish to accomplish. Then he has them circle only five of them. These are the most important of the important, the cream of the crop. Then he tells his employees to take a laser focus and a fearsome determination to these five tasks, and these five only.

In fact, he says, they should put the other 20 remaining tasks, important though they may be, on their “avoid at all costs” list. As soon as I heard this strategy, something inside my brain clicked. I’m going to spend an hour tomorrow developing my own “priority” lists and then I’m going to whittle it down to five.

If you want to try the same strategy, you can read more about it here. And let’s all say goodbye to our monstrously long, unfocused to do lists!


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