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Let's Spring Clean Your To-Do List

So here we are, officially at the beginning of Q2.

How’s your to-do list looking?

Have you started on those key initiatives yet? How’s your revenue target shaping up? Is that launch on schedule? Have you filled that vacant position? Had that difficult conversation? Landed on that new strategy?

Is your to-do list longer today than it was in January?

Hmm… is it possible that your massive to-do list is actually counterproductively getting in your way? Is it draining your energy? Does it leave you feeling overwhelmed? Rather than motivating you, is it in fact paralyzing you?

If this is the case, it could be a sign that you need to sharpen your priorities. And you need to do it quickly, because you’ve only got 3 months to get stuff done before we all slide into the summer doldrums.

So, let’s give your list a spring cleaning.

Take a look at last week’s calendar.

How much of your time was focused on urgent things? How much time did you spend on important things? And how much time did you spend on things that were both urgent and important?

If you found yourself focusing on things that were not so urgent and not so important, you my friend are avoiding something.

In coaching, we refer to this tendency as nurturing a safe problem. You might recognize them as constantly running around putting out fires, obsessing over small, ultimately inconsequential details, or dedicating time to the “nice to haves” of one project rather than the “must haves” of another.

Safe problems are distractions. What are they distracting ourselves from? Well, quality problems, the kind I listed above – key initiatives, revenue targets, launches… etc. Quality problems are hard. Really hard. And that’s why we avoid them.

Now take a look at this week’s to-do list.

Go through each item and mark it as either urgent, important, or both urgent and important.

(Here’s a hint on how to do that: urgent things require immediate attention, often involve someone else’s goals, and the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. Important things involve achieving your own goals.)

Now let’s get you sorted.

Step 1: Prioritize the urgent and important items first. Get them done.

Step 2: Schedule time for the important but not urgent items. Stick to the schedule.

Step 3: Review your list of urgent, but not terribly important items. Things like responding to emails, scheduling a meeting, or sending off a report. Can you delegate it? If yet, get rid of it. If no, schedule daily time to get to it. Usually first thing in the morning, or end of day work best.

Step 4: Take a look at the not urgent or important things. Be brutally honest here because this is where our safe problems often hide. Do you need to tweak that document yet again? Will the client even notice that extra value you’re adding? Will that online course teach you anything you don’t already know?

Delete these items.

Be brutal. Draw a big red line through them.

Doesn’t that feel better?

Now get to work. Those quality problems aren’t going to solve themselves.

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