Myth 6: I can’t function without my To-Do list

Yes, you can! Scary as it seems, the world won’t fall apart. I should know.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve been a prodigious list maker. I was an early adopter of every to-do software, and as my lists got longer, with more projects involving others too, I started creating sophisticated Excel spreadsheets.

One day, my business partner posed two questions. How long did I spend managing my lists, and did I ever get to the end of my lists? It turns out that I spent 3 to 4 hours each week at least, and no, I NEVER saw the end of lists – there were always more things to add.

So almost 10 years ago, I quit making lists, cold-turkey. At first, it felt like I was on a trapeze with no safety net! But gradually, I learned to achieve even more, and be less stressed doing so.

Here’s how you too can double your productivity without lists

1. At the start of each week, review what you want to accomplish that month, and plan out your week so that you spend as much time as possible on those items that keep you on purpose and are tied to your life and work goals.

2. Set-up a color-coded weekly schedule so you can ensure a balanced week. Google Calendar, MS Outlook or other such calendars are amazing tools.

3. Each week, identify the time you have available AFTER personal goals, and divide up your week with activities aimed at the outcomes you have outlined in the monthly plan you developed.

4. Focus on the most difficult or unpleasant outcome first. Things rarely take as long as one thinks, or turn out as badly as one imagines. But the energy from accomplishing something difficult early in the day will charge you up for the rest of the day.

5. Focus on achieving only two or three key outcomes per day. Schedule these chunks of time into your calendar so you are spending time on the really important things in your life – on a work day or otherwise. Think about it for a moment. 2 outcomes a day, x 5 days a week, x 40 weeks per 400 work outcomes a year. Not busy work – OUTCOMES! Big and small!

This way of organizing your week might sound radical. With your daily pressures, this approach may seem difficult at first. But if you persevere, you will eventually find that you lead a calm, on-purpose, BALANCED life; that you achieve much, much more; that you enjoy each week; and that your energy actually increases exponentially.

Finally, do I really function with no lists of any kind? Not quite. I have two situations when I do keep lists.

The first is just before traveling, when there are many things to get through in a short timeframe.

The second is I use Google’s tool (http://keep.google.com) to keep notes of books people suggest I read; longer term items or projects that I don’t want to forget to attend to; and commitments I have made for my volunteer role that involve others. BUT I spend no more than 5 to 10 minutes a week on reviewing/editing these very short lists. Beats 3 to 4 hours a week, doesn’t it?

And while it’s taken a decade, I have managed to double what I can achieve in a typical month by simply planning and focusing on outcomes instead of To Do lists. Better yet, I achieve these outcomes in half the time.

So if you want your personal productivity to soar, consider shifting your perspective to: I CAN manage just fine without my To-Do list.