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To do lists are Evil- Schedule Everything

To do lists are Evil- Schedule Everything

Researches claim that to do lists are the devils work, cause they don’t factor the time consideration.  Ever wonder why you never seem to get to the bottom of the list?  You can easily list 28 hours worth of activities for a 24 hour day. You need to be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have. The only way to do that is to schedule things on a calendar instead of making an endless list.

Decide when you want to leave work and you will know how many hours you have, Slot it what you need to get done by priority, known also as fixed schedule productivity’. You need boundaries, if you want work –life balance. This forces you to be efficient. By setting a dead line of 1800 hours, and then scheduling tasks, you can get control over that hurricane of duties, and be realistic too, instead of shocked by what is never going to happen.

Most of us use calendars all wrong; we don’t schedule work; we schedule interruption. Doctors’ appointments get scheduled. You know what often doesn’t get scheduled. Real work.  All those other things are distractions.

Often, they are other people’s work. Yet they get dedicated blocks of time and your real work becomes an orphan. If real work is the stuff that affects the bottom line, the stuff that get you noticed, the things that earns your raises, gets you singled out for promotion, well let me utter blasphemy and suggest that maybe its deserves a little dedicated time too.

Also, at least 60 minutes a day preferably in the morning, needs to be ‘protected time’. This is the hour every day when you get real work done without interruption. Approach this concept as if it’s a religious one. This hour is volatile. E-mails, meetings and phone calls are often just ‘shallow work’.  You want to us this hour for ‘deep work’.

60 minutes will actually move things forward instead of just treading water, Shallow work stops you from getting fired- but deep work is what get’s you promoted. And you don’t want this at the end of the day when it may get bumped. You want to be able to bring your full brain power to the tasks that matter.

Research shows that 2- 21/2 hours to 4 hours after waking up is when your brain is sharpest. Do you really want to waste it on a conference call or staff meeting?

What is you are totally overwhelmed at the office. If you never get a break from interruptions, then do your protected time at home for 60 minutes before work.  A Swedish study on 12 executives that showed they literally could not work 20 minutes without being interrupted. The one who was able to make thoughtful decisions was the one who spent 90 minutes working from home before entering the maelstrom of the office.

 Planning out every day so rigorously is a pain at first, yet it works, and works well. For an extra credit, you may want to start planning out your free time too. Before you recoil in horror at this thought, let’s ponder over a study conducted on 403 people – which concluded –that managing your free time is associated with higher quality of life. Fascinating was that  increasing people’s free time had no effect on their happiness, but scheduling that time in advance, made all the difference.

Amusingly most of us don’t use our time off wisely- we do what is easy instead of what makes us happy. By taking some time to plan, you and I can make it more likely to have fun instead of being a couch potato.

Thus scheduling everything using protected time ensures that important stuff gets done, yet we harbour a dilemma- that shallow work isn’t going away.  An effective way to deal with the busy work is in ‘batches’.  Rather than reactively living in your inbox, schedule a few intervals when you process e-mails, return phone calls and shuffle the papers that need shuffling.

After that session is over turn off notifications, silence the phone and get back to important stuff. 3 batches a day works for me, but a job that requires frequent interaction may require more. Point is to be able to control and schedule these periods as much as possible such that they don’t creep up into time when you are doing deep work.  We have gone to the moon, have built pyramids without email and Face book. You can go a couple of hours without checking them.

What if a quick reply is warranted? Then set up an email filter, so you only get notifications from the head honcho or whoever else relay matters.  The rest can wait.

If you get rid of unnecessary activities, schedule everything, use protected time, and batch busy work, yet if you can’t stop people from piling unimportant tasks on your desk, you will always be mired in the shallows.

You need to have your priorities clear, and to align tasks with how many hours you actually have in a day. If something doesn’t have a priority and there is not time for it, you need to say no.

The difference between successful and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.



KSA has over 30+ years of business experience across sales, operations, logistic and retail, publishing, consulting and management roles. Experienced in organization development consultant with primary expertise in leadership assessment, skills enhancement and performance management.


Has a unique ability to partner with senior leadership, adapt well to change, and collaborate with people throughout an organization allows to build productive relationships and solutions that have had a positive impact on the bottom line for numerous corporations.

Email ks.ahluwalia@yahoo.com



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