“Great looking list,” I commended. “So, how do you work it?” We had been talking about Marie’s project list and her daily to-do lists.
Her brow furrowed. “I look at the list, and really, I just start working on whatever I think is easiest to get done right then. Or I try to pick off an A priority. But here’s the rub. We just spent half an hour working on this list, and it’s likely I won’t even look at it again until next Tuesday. I don’t use it to focus, I mean, I don’t even look at it. And I don’t know why. And then something falls through the cracks.”
“What do you use to focus?” I asked.
“My calendar. I have a lot of meetings,” she replied. “I live and die by my calendar. I look at it ten times a day.”
“Then, stop making to-do lists,” I challenged.
“But, I thought, as a manager, that I had to make to-do lists? It’s one of those big Time Management ideas.”
I smiled. “That’s the trap everyone falls into. There are only about seven Time Management principles and the dirty little secret is that you cannot use them all, some principles won’t work for you and you won’t work some principles. So stop. Stop doing what doesn’t work and stop feeling guilty about it.”
“So, if to-do lists don’t work for me, how do I keep things from falling through the cracks?”
“What do you use to focus?” I repeated.
“Then, everything goes into your calendar.”
“Won’t my calendar get kind of messy?”
“What does it matter? You look at it ten times a day. It’s what helps you focus.”