Your Tasks List Is a List of Your Obligations — Are You Treating It That Way?

by Annie

in ruthless productivity

A to-do listWhat’s wrong with most people’s to-do lists?

Tons of things, to be honest. But second to the failure to base the list on values-based visions, the most common problem I see is that folks aren’t treating their list items as what they are: commitments. Obligations. Promises.

Think about it: if you’re not committing to doing each and every item on that list, then what’s the list for, really? Why not just do whatever you feel like doing in the moment?

The need for the list in the first place is so that we can remember the stuff we’ve promised to do — whether that promise is to our family, a client, a group, or ourselves.

And one way we screw up The List is to put stuff on there that we’re not yet ready to commit to doing.

Don’t just take my word for it. Go get your List right now. Take a hard, cold look at it. I’d be willing to bet there’s probably at least one item there that you’re not quite wholly committed to just yet.

It might be something you’ve been told you “ought” to do as a business owner or a parent or a good member of the group or a person or …

It might be something you read about in another blog that convinced you your success was dependent on this one thing …

It might even be something you really do want to do, something that sounds like fun, even …

But for whatever reason, you haven’t yet committed yourself to doing it. You haven’t yet cut off all other possibilities — such as the possibility of deferring it, or delegating it, or attempting it on a smaller scale, or not doing it at all.

What I propose is that every item on your list must be something you have committed to doing in full. Something you’re willing to stake your reputation on, were you willing to go public with this item (not that I’m suggesting you make your List public in full, by the way — there are always things on my List I want to keep between me and the laptop, if you know what I’m sayin’…).

Make a game of it. Take your List and ask yourself for each item if you can get away with deferring it or delegating it. Challenge yourself to get as many items off your List as possible.

And here’s the side benefit of approaching your List this seriously: for everything you do cross off that List, that’s an obligation you met. That’s a commitment you followed through on brilliantly. That’s more evidence to convince your scared little Inner Entrepreneur that you really can handle this biz-owning stuff.

Plus, there’s this: I have found that integrity is one of those things that builds on itself, much the same way an exercised muscle gets stronger.

I challenged myself to practice what I’ve been preaching, by the way, and moved five items off my List and onto the “Ideas for the Future” list. (Because while I’m not willing to commit to them right now, I might want to do them someday … and the brain is not the place to keep those items for future recall. Especially not my brain, which seems to resemble Swiss cheese these days …)

So how many items can you cross of your List?

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