A To Do List is Not a Plan

by Bluewater Advisory

July 20, 2020

“P.S. Had the most productive day today in a month because I took 5 mins last night to PLAN and I set aside my first hour today to NOT LOOK AT EMAILS but to get my high priority tasks done FIRST. LOVED IT SOOOOOOOO SO, SO, MUCH.  THANK YOU! I will definitely be keeping this going AND recommending it to others!!!”

This piece of magic was sent to me in an email earlier in the week. I was on a one-to-one call with a woman participating in our current leadership program when she shared that she was feeling overwhelmed and scattered as of late. We talked about a few simple tweaks to her daily habits that could significantly increase her productivity, personal accountability, and create a sense of control over her days. Above is the update I received the very next day.

We at Bluewater provide a lot of coaching, at both management and executive levels. And (no surprise since March) more and more coaching calls are centering around helping people take control of their days and increase their productivity. Our days are more dynamic, busier, and often more uncertain than ever before. Managing ourselves, our habits and our productivity – while managing our teams in an ever changing and shifting environment – is more crucial than ever. Below are two small steps (if you know me, you know that I LOVE creating small, meaningful habits that lead to big results) that have been working for our coaching clients and may give you more productivity back in your day too:

  1. Use your calendar. This one seems simple, but when working with coaching clients, I often hear them say that they use their calendar but when we dive deeper, it is most often only used for meeting appointments. Utilizing your calendar is crucial to feeling in control of your day. Having a clear picture, even if a high level one, of what important tasks need to get accomplished during the day is essential in productivity. While we all know that our days are never going to go exactly as planned, calendaring gives us a place to work proactively from when our days go awry as opposed to reactively responding based on what is thrown at us. More on calendaring below.
  1. A To Do list is not a plan. In these conversations, when I ask if they plan their day, they almost always respond with a “Yes”. Upon further discussion, however, it becomes clear that most simply have a To Do list. While a To Do list is certainly important to keep track of things that need to be accomplished, it is not a plan. And often a To Do list without a plan makes our days feel more overwhelmed and chaotic. My suggestion is to take five minutes at the end of the day and identify three of the most important things that need to get done the following day and allot time on your calendar for each. You may not accomplish all three, but you are much more likely to get at least one or two of them accomplished. Then during planning for the next day, simply move the item (or two) you did not get to, to the next day. Moving an “unaccomplished” item to the following day, rather than just hitting “snooze” on the reminder, is far more motivating to get it accomplished and increases your level of accountability to that item. There are several other great results that come from creating this habit, but that’s for another blog.

If your days are feeling stressful or chaotic, I encourage you to incorporate these few simple proactive practices to help reduce your stress and make you feel more in control of your days. If you are looking to really increase your productivity, help your team manage their days more effectively or need extra support during this turbulent time, Bluewater is here to help with all your coaching needs.

Lindsey Weigle, Partner