The To Do List Is Dead; Long Live The To Do List!

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Author Image - Elizabeth Hair

By Elizabeth Hair

Elizabeth is an experienced Project Manager, manageing project across numerous digital and traditional sectors.

Can you believe we’re almost half way through 2015?  It’s been a fantastic few months here at Leighton, and they’ve flown by!

So, finding time for a little breather, and given that I love planning and reviewing progress, I thought now would be a good opportunity to take a look at my New Year’s resolution - and more importantly, see how it’s benefiting not just me, but our clients at Leighton.

I love / hate to do lists

We all know the most popular New Year’s resolutions are usually around losing weight, giving something up or becoming fitter. They’re generally all set to ensure you can enjoy life and live it to the fullest.

For me this year, however, I wanted to make sure my to do list never ended.

Yep.  The one thing everyone tries to clear, I decided I wanted to grow it instead.  Exciting, right?

As you might expect, there is reasoning behind this, especially because being a Project Manager, it’s often expected that I’d be continually striving to completely clear my to do list, as opposed to add to it.

Inspired by a number of posts I read late last year (including this one on Buffer, and this one on, this ‘life hack’ of sorts is genuinely affecting my life in a completely positive way.

Achievements don’t have to come through ticks

For years I’ve been programmed to burndown on my task list, demonstrating and measuring productivity by placing a small tick on a scrap piece of paper or with a shiny task management tool such as Trello.

Once I’ve completed my tasks, I would have a sense of achievement and enter the ‘business as usual’ and ‘comfort zone’ state of mind.  I came to the conclusion though that this state of mind is dangerous, breeding stagnation.  And stagnation really is the enemy of success.

Instead, achievement isn’t about doing everything, it’s about doing the right things, and continually doing these things whilst striving to do new things.

I wanted to avoid being in the comfort zone or becoming stale because I didn’t have a task list to keep me productive.  This is when I introduced the work hack to add to my to-do list.  Sure, my aim is still to complete tasks, but simultaneously become more relaxed about having new tasks added.

For me, there is no golden rule or ratio you have to adhere to when adding new tasks.  Generally though, you’ll identify those that hold weight and add value to your project, rather than being seemingly irrelevant points that you simply add so once ticked off, they give you that sense of achievement.

So how does this benefit our customers at Leighton?

At Leighton we take ownership and responsibility of each and every project by building long term partnerships.  We’re always looking to further optimise, enhance and innovate the entire digital presence of our clients.

Importantly, the improvements don’t have to come directly, and can be built up from smaller foundations, which is exactly happens with this approach - the more effective I can personally be as a Project Manager, the greater impact I can have on those around me, in turn resulting in a more effective and efficient team working harder to achieve continued success for our clients.

How can you do it?

One of the greatest things about this life hack is it doesn’t require for you to do anything new on top of what you’re already doing, just tweak your approach slightly.

The management of tasks can quite easily be jotted down in your notebook, but I prefer making use of the online tool from Trello. Trello allows you to collaborate and organise your projects into boards, with a simple interface that tells you what you have worked on, what you are currently working on and where something is in a process.

From here, it’s just a matter of understanding you don’t need to achieve ‘To Do List Zero’.  Instead, you need an awareness that to do lists aren’t evil or hampering your progress if they’re full, and rather, they can have a positive effect on your entire working life (or if you’re like me, your personal life, too!).

Six months in to my New Year’s resolution and it’s exhilarating to reflect on all those tasks I’ve completed, but also comforting and motivating to know I’m not slipping into the comfort zone with all the tasks waiting to be started!

Do we think it’ll continue for the next six months? I think so - and I plan to get some of my colleagues on board, too!