Startup Leadership: Kill that To-Do List
To-Do lists are pervasive. I notice that most folks maintain one religiously. In fact, they're quite comprehensive and capture every action item pending, and sometimes with a timeline next to it. Others are color coded, indicating different priorities or categories of action items. This looks all good until one realizes:
Some items stay on the to-do list for long. Really long. Long enough to be struck off eventually out of boredom or deprioritization. This is also based on personal experience - I've had to-do lists with big, bold action items to denote priority that I'd never get to - at least not in quick time. Why?
Because E-mail. Because Meetings. Here's the thing (and if you already know this, don't read further!):
- Your to-do list is the to-do list you make
- Your E-mail/Calendar is the to-do list others make for you
This is critical.
Your to-do list is on a piece of paper or a whiteboard. Your to-do list is powerless against the mighty meeting invite or e-mail demanding your time or response or presence.
The answer? Take control. Get rid of that powerless To-do list. Turn your calendar into the To-do list. If it's important enough to get done, it deserves time on your calendar. If it's not, just say "no" or delegate, and move on. As your calendar fills up with things you prioritize/need to do, you'll be able to gauge how busy you really are - and then take an educated call on whether you have time for anything others want to put on your to-do list.
Top business leaders are often thought of as productivity powerhouses, and this is their secret. (Note: That's also why they need someone managing their calendars -- it's their to-do list, and it defines how much, and more importantly, what, they get done).
Take control of your calendar - turn it into your to-do list. And get rid of that silly to-do list you keep.
You'll thank me forever.