For busy executives, effectively managing tasks is the key to reducing stress and delivering timely results. There are many techniques for managing to-do lists – some people like paper others prefer automated tools. But even when you have the right tools, you first need to overcome that perennial enemy of accomplishment: procrastination.
Regardless of the method we might prefer to manage our to-do lists, it is sometimes just too tempting to move a task to the next day. It’s human nature. The more tedious, annoying or difficult a task promises to be, the more likely we are to postpone it until suddenly the deadline looms. And if there isn’t really a firm deadline, unpleasant tasks are even more likely to be pushed out.
One way to get a handle on this is to keep track of each time (and how many times!) you defer a task. After 5 delays, consider whether the task is really still necessary. If not, simply remove it from your list. If the task was imposed on you as an action item from a meeting, you must inform the people who assigned the action of your decision (don’t sweat, they’ve probably given up on it anyway). Alternatively, see if you can delegate some, or all, of the task, if it simply can’t be abandoned.
Once you’ve cleaned out the stale tasks from your to-do list, you are left with a smaller set of challenging (but important) tasks that have to get done. Set yourself a goal to complete at least one of these each day or perhaps three each week. You may find the thought of tackling these tough tasks about as inspiring as going for a run on a frigid winter morning, but the feeling of accomplishment when they are completed is liberating. You’ll immediately feel your stress levels start to drop. Think of each check mark on your to-do list as a little Victory symbol in your battle to get things done!
Cutting through to-do list noise so you can tackle the really daunting tasks will also earn the respect and appreciation of the many people who are counting on you to meet your deliverables, whether they are colleagues or your boss. With that kind of positive reinforcement, who knows, you may just start enjoying your to-do list.
So now that you have resolved to stop procrastinating, it’s time to buckle down and get to it. For as every productive worker knows, you can’t finish a job if you don’t get started!