I used to work with an individual who carried her calendar with her
everywhere. Within the calendar was her personal checklist for the
day. Each morning, I would see her flipping the pages back and
forth from yesterday to today and transferring the items not finished
yesterday to the new day. After several days of watching her do this, I
finally asked her two questions: First, how long does it take each day to
transfer the new items over? Second, how important were the tasks in
the first place if they kept getting moved? The answers were, that it took
longer than she liked and the tasks transferred each day were probably
not as important as she had originally thought. She was hurting her
ability to manage time effectively in an attempt to organize each day.
The use of checklists always starts with the best intentions.
Unfortunately, people often like to see them to check off their completed
items and turn it into an accomplishments list. Checklists shouldn’t
be used as an accomplishments list to tick off the little victories, or
as an exercise in procrastination. Checklists should be used to drive
execution of the tasks, but too often we start to migrate to the easier
and quicker tasks. If you want an accomplishments list, then keep one,
but don’t combine it with your checklist. A checklist should be about
getting things done. On it should be all items needing to be addressed
today: important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. It should be
a complete list dedicated to today.
Assess your own checklist usage. Whether it is a literal checklist or a
figurative set of tasks that you keep online, take the time to understand
how often you move tasks regularly. You should stop using a checklist
if you constantly shift tasks from day to day—this isn’t productive.
Consider the following when conducting your assessment, some of
which is reinforcement of past chapters:
• If you have moved a task for consecutive days, you must ask
yourself, “How important is it?” If it is important, take action
on it. If it is important but not urgent, don’t schedule it for
tomorrow, schedule it for a week from now, when you know
you can get to it.
• If you are proactively staying ahead of your day, week, and
month as stated in an earlier chapter, then you should be on
top of this and simply be making tweaks along the way.
• Checklists, if kept, must be comprised of the least amount of
work you expect to get done and still consider the day a success.
Specifically, this is the “I can’t leave until this gets done” list. Be
• Build in daily events and habits. What do you do at eight a.m.
every morning? Are there calls you have to return, administrative
tasks that need to be done (e.g., paperwork to process)? If so,
build it in. Account for the time you are using.
When it comes to checklists, the important key is to not write it
down or add it to your online to-do list today if you are not going
to do it today. Your checklist assessment should enable you to turn a
potential time management hindrance into a time management tool.