Most people do keep a to-do list, even if in their head (a really bad place to keep lists). Cards, planners, and computer programs contain a line upon line journal of our obligations.
To-do lists grow like kudzu vines in Georgia. Soon, the items all tug our minds for attention until we want to scream. Do we make a phone call? Write an email? Read though the backlog of journals, books, or articles? Draft a proposal or report?
The problem is not finding out what to do. It’s deciding what to do next. What do you do now?
What Makes Me Feel Better?
It’s usually not a good idea to decide just to do what makes you feel good. However, it makes sense to tackle an item that will take the stress off your shoulders. It may be unpleasant (like a confrontational meeting) but in the long run, it’s off your mind and you can move on.
What Gets Me Closer to Completion?
As David Allen points out in his Getting Things Done, projects have multiple pieces. Are there things you can do right now that takes care of part of a project. Prepare a folder to capture details of a project. Find the phone number. Add a contact to your contact manager. None are earth shaking, but you can make significant progress one item at a time.
What Must Be Done?
Everyone has tasks that are not just “to-do” but “must-do.” Buying gas an prevent a hot afternoon on the side of a road. Ignoring a report that might lead to losing your job is a “must-do” job. With must-do jobs, just beat it to death with a stick and get it done. The sense of relief is worth so much.
Don’t stare at a list. Ask a few questions and then…get on with it!