I mentioned this blog post to a friend the other day and thought perhaps you’d like to read it, too. From November, 2010:
The other day I posted on Facebook:
From the comments posted in response, to-do lists seem to be the bane of existence for quite a few of us. Don’t like ‘em, but can’t live this modern life without ‘em.
As I lay me down to sleep, though, I looked back on my troublesome to-do list and realized that of the six items on the list, I had completed three. Fifty percent. How did I feel about that? Was it “good enough”?
If I were a baseball player and hit the ball as well as I completed my to-do list, I’d be batting .500. I’d be in the Hall of Fame. With my own display case. Because even the all-time best hitters never crack .400.
And, drum roll please, Michele Woodward – .500.
Not too shabby.
To tell the truth, I could even pump up my average a little bit. Because after I created my to-do list, I asked the four questions that have become my to-do list mantra:
- Does this task have to be done at all?
- Do I have to do it now?
- What’s the impact if I do this later?
- Am I really the best person to do this task?
By asking myself these questions, I immediately eliminated one item (didn’t really need to be done) and asked my so-much-taller-than-me 17 year old son to do one thing (replace the porch light bulbs – after assuring him it would certainly count as community service on his college application).
The stuff I didn’t get done? I’ll do it today. Because today is such a better time to get it done (see Questions Two and Three).
The challenge for some of us is that last question – Am I really the best person to do this task? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel a little queasy answering “nope”. We’ve all got our pride, right? And although we discussed the importance of showing vulnerability last week, discussing vulnerability doesn’t magically make doing it all that easy. However, when you look at your values – what’s really important to you – then sometimes asking someone else to take on a task becomes less of a big deal.
For instance, I have a real value around helping my kids become independent adults. Adults need to know how to change light bulbs, don’t they? Therefore, tasking my son with this to-do is really teaching him an important life skill! [Which I will remind him. Repeatedly.]
At work, too, when the issues are larger than light bulbs, these questions come into play. Are you a true mentor? Then let the kid have a shot. Are you a real leader? Then you better share the load. Are you a top producer? Then quadruple your production by adding more hands to the job.
And if you are one of Those People who look at fifty percent completion as fifty percent failure, then let me remind you of this:
For every three times he was at bat, Babe Ruth got out twice. And under his picture in the Hall of Fame is the caption: Sultan of Swat.
So relax with your to-do list. Remember to ask yourself those four questions. Then, step inside the batter’s box, take a few swings to limber up, and keep your eye on the ball all the way to the plate. Trust me, you will swing and miss. There will be a foul tip or two. But, from time to time, you’ll connect and hit it out of the park.
Bang – you’re in The To-Do List Hall of Fame, baby.