“This week” – the secret to managing your time well

to do list

“Honey, can you make the insurance payment? ” my wife would ask me.

“Sure dear, I’ll take care of it,” I’d respond.

Early in our marriage there were often fireworks due to such seemingly innocuous conversations between my wife and I. It took me a while to figure that my wife meant, “Can you get the insurance paid NOW!” And it galled her no end, that my response meant, that I’d get it done one of these days.

Fortunately for us, we arrived at a compromise that all such conversations, especially ones where I needed to get something done, meant I’ll get it done that WEEK! Twenty years on, we are still on talking terms largely due to this one agreement.

Each year, as I work on new projects and often with new team members, I learn a thing or two about managing my time better – even if it’s only what not to do. From my early Franklin planning days of the early ‘80s through the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People all the way through Getting Things Done and Wunderlist, I’ve tried my share of tools and methods to be more productive and get more of the right stuff done in less time. Truth is that it’s still a work in progress and I continue to struggle with procrastination.

As the parent of two teen girls, child of an aging, recently widowed parent, as a slightly overweight middle-aged man trying to get in shape, the operational head of a non-profit and spouse of a professional musician, my to-do list is overflowing. Even when it’s incomplete.

If you are like me, your to-do lists are ambitious – maybe more hopeful than practical. The very act of opening them is daunting. But we still put too much for a day on ‘em. It finally dawned on me to apply the lesson I’ve learned in making commitments to my wife. Seek balance over a week – and not try the impossible of trying to achieve it each day.

Plan your to-do list for a week. Yep – not just for the day. The reality is some days you’re going to get only one thing done, if that. On other days you’re going to be on fire. By keeping your to-do horizon to be a week, rather than the day—things will be a whole lot less stressful. Sure the first week you’ll over commit, but very soon you’ll get the knack of it.

Now say after me, “I’ll get it done sometime this week!” 

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2 thoughts on ““This week” – the secret to managing your time well

    • One of the things science has determined is that we like to-do lists because every time we check an item off we get a dopamine boost. As this HBR article notes

      “When your list contains some tasks that are three minutes long and some that are 33 minutes, you’ll invariably focus on the shorter one for the psychological payoff and dopamine release that comes from crossing an item off your list. That means some of those tasks — proofreading the 135 pages of the new employee benefits handbook — will wait for a long, long time.”

      Like

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