Prioritizing your todo list


Look at your todo list(s). Too much to do, right? Where do you start? You start by prioritizing your list, so you can focus on what matters most.

There are lots of ways to do this but here’s a good place to start:

Next to each task, write down why you’re doing it.

Is it something you have to do to deliver work product or results to a client? Are you doing it because harsh penalties will result if you miss a deadline? Are you doing it because it is a key step towards achieving an important goal?

Whatever it is, verbalize it (mentally) and write it down.

In thinking about each task, you may discover that you’re doing some things out of habit but that those things don’t contribute much to your growth. You can safely eliminate them, defer them, or delegate them to others.

You may discover that you doing certain tasks in a perfunctory manner, not really giving them the attention they deserve. As you realize this, you’ll be prompted to allocate more time or resources.

When you know why you’re doing something, you’ll be better able to manage your priorities. The next time you look at your list and the “reasons why” look back at you, you’ll find yourself being more intentional about your choices and more effective in your results.

Why did I write this? To remind you that there are referrals waiting to be had and encourage you to let me help you get them.


Prioritize your to-do list by asking why


When you tell a young child to do something–pick up their clothes, finish their veggies, do their chores–you invariably hear them ask “why?”

They don’t ask this because they want to drive us crazy, although I know you might disagree. “You don’t know my kid!” Mostly, they really do want to know why they should do what you’ve asked them to do.

In other words, why is it important?

They are learning about the world, trying to make sense of everything and how it all fits together. In that context,”Why do I have to finish my veggies–I don’t like them,” is not an unfair question. Why indeed should they finish them?

By the way, if my father is reading this, “Because I said so,” is not a good answer.

When you tell your children why something is important, why they should do it, even though they still may not like it, they will be more likely to do it. It’s not just something on a never-ending list of things children have to do, there’s actually a reason for it.

And yet as adults, we make lists of things we have to do without always understanding why. It shouldn’t surprise us then that our lists contain tasks that never seem to get done simply because we are not motivated to do them.

When you make a “to do” list, the parent in you is telling the child in you to do these things but not telling you why. Why not ask your inner parent why?

According to an article in Psychology Today, knowing “why” will help you accomplish more of the things on your task list, especially things you “have to” do but might not feel like doing.

The author recommends making a “why do” list rather than simply a “to do” list. Write down why a task is important, the benefits to be had for doing it. If those benefits are important to you, you’ll be more motivated to complete the task.

I love this idea. Not just because it helps us get things done we otherwise might not do but because it lets us compare the tasks on our list and see their relative value. This lets us prioritize our list so that we get the most valuable tasks done first.

In other words, knowing why helps us become more effective.

Right now, I’ve got hundreds of tasks on my master task list. I prioritize my list based more on gut feeling than anything else. Sure, there are tasks with deadlines and there are things I do every day because they are part of my long term business model. But most of the tasks on my list are discretionary and for those, I’m going to start writing down why.

Right now, I’m off to get another cup of coffee. Why? Because I said so.