Archive for July, 2009

Do you use a “To-Do List” to effectively manage your time and to enjoy life?

Having a “To Do” list can be an effective time management tool for clarifying, prioritizing, and goal achievement. To–Do lists can be used as a godsend or allowed to become demons. The latter was the case with Mike, a 30-something I.T. specialist, who is married and father of two young boys.

“What’s on your mind,” I asked Mike as we meet for a coaching session.

Mike: I’m totally task-driven, I’ve got a To-Do list for everything.

Me: How’s that a problem for you?

Mike: On the one hand, it’s gotten me where I’m at in my career. It keeps me focused on what I need to accomplish. The problem is with my home life, where I’ve also got a to-do list for everything. It’s gotten to the point where my to-do list runs my life. Last week, for example, my wife suggested we go for a ride, as the boys were off at something or other and we hadn’t spent any time together for ages. I turned her down, however, because I wouldn’t take the time away from accomplishing the tasks on my to-do list.

Later that day, Mike said, he was heading for the hardware store for something he needed for a project he was working on but his wife stopped him to ask where he was going. When Mike informed her of his intentions she insisted he take along one of the boys who’d returned home. Mike objected because he was in a hurry, but reluctantly gave in and took the son.

Recalling that day, Mike said he couldn’t remember what he’d been working on but he fondly recalled the time with his son. The two of them had fun together and Mike was thankful he’d given in to wife demands. He was remorseful, however, that his to-do list addiction had prevented him earlier in the day to spend a little quality time with his wife. Mike was seriously bothered by the fact that he was ruled by his To-Do list. His question to me was:

How do I free myself from this addiction so that I can enjoy myself and my family but still accomplish what I want and need to do?

I have great empathy for Mike on this matter, since I share some of his compulsiveness, which frequently inhibits enjoying life in the moment. My following two suggestions to Mike come, therefore, more from professional knowledge than from abundant personal success on this score:

  • Along with your important priorities, identify things you enjoy and include them on your “To-Do” list. Also include time to do nothing as a priority item. That way you get to rate enjoyable activities as task accomplished.
  • When faced with competing pulls between task or a relationship, ask yourself: What ultimately is going to be the most important outcome? At the end of the day—you life, which is going to result in feeling good about yourself? If it’s the task, then go about it guilt free. But if it’s a relationship building opportunity you can be fully justified in the time off task and on a higher priority. Good advice for Mike and for me. How about you?
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