A couple of months ago I realized that my to-do list was enabling my procrastination. No, really. Instead of keeping me focused on my goals and deadlines, it allowed me to be distracted by things that weren't important at all, and to actually feel good about it. It always surprised me to get to the end of a week and realize that I hadn't made much progress toward my goals. What was I doing wrong? How could someone with a to-do list a mile long be so far away from accomplishing her goals? Let's go deeper with a little help from the late great, Shirley Temple.
As a child I somehow found myself in possession a few VHS tapes from the child star's early days, like Curly Top, and kept them in steady rotation--which meant that I could repeat every syllable and sigh without even thinking about it. There was a scene in one particular film that always made me laugh so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Well, it was more my older brother's added commentary about the scene.
Let me paint the picture: a-7-year-old Shirley Temple has been getting "washed up" for bed and she emerges from the bathroom in her pajamas to tell her caretaker how thorough she has been. "I washed my nose, and my ears, and my knees, and my toes, and my elbows." It's a long list of important body parts that one should certainly clean, but it's also missing a few essentials. "Why didn't she wash her butt, or even her arm pits?" That's what my brother would blurt out before he joined me in a fit of laughter. It was ridiculous, laughable that Shirley would take pride in having taken such a long bath and washed so many things, but missed the stinkiest parts, the most important things to clean.
Ok, no judgement, raise your hand if your to-do list is a lot like Shirley's list. Is it packed to the brim with tasks that keep you busy, but void of meaningful items that are actually going to push you toward your goals? You know what I'm talking about, the kind of to-do list filled with stuff like: organize my underwear drawer, answer the emails sent to my old college address, stretch, and other random tasks that you did yesterday to feel good about all the real work that didn't get done but you add it to today's to-do list just so you can feel the rush of crossing things off your list.
Legends aren't content with being busy, they are productive. The truth is, if you complete three significant projects each day, you'll be more productive than if you busy yourself with 12 tasks that don't actually matter. Ditch your to-do list and replace it with a time-budget that helps you track your progress toward the goals that matter to you most. Here's how to get started: click here.
As you go about the business of your day ask yourself these 3 questions: What are my priorities for today? How does this task get me closer to my goals? Is the (time) cost of completing this task right now going to take away my ability to do something else more important later?
Here's to a new year full of productive (not busy) days! Tell me how you're planning to make 2016 legendary. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email at email@example.com.