I’m a HUGE fan of To-Do lists. As far as fans go, they don’t come any bigger, trust me.
To-do lists keep me sane. They help me stay on track and make me look good. “You’re so organized, Miriam. How do you manage to get it all done?”
The truth is: I don’t – unless I use a to-do list.
To prove it, here’s a cautionary tale of the day I forgot my to-do list:
<WARNING: Content may frighten young children and people who like to stay on top of things.>
It was a normal day like any other. I arrived at work full of hope & promise, barely missing my to-do list. I’d just not had time to prepare it the night before. It didn’t seem like a big deal. What’s the worst that could happen?
I spent the first hour wandering the office, chatting to people, refilling the coffee machine & emptying the dishwasher before I finally sat down at my desk.
“Hmmm..what first? I know! I’ll check my emails. Gosh, look at this. I’m so popular!”
<insert foreboding background music here>
Well, what can I tell you? One thing led to another – as they do. I replied to a few emails, followed a few links, did some internet banking. I felt good. “I’m getting stuff done. I’m busy here.”
I spent the next couple of hours like that – going in circles, filing emails, marking some for later reading, replying to unimportant ones which could’ve waited ‘til tomorrow and had several screens open at once before a random thought distracted me: “Did I pay that parking fine last week?”
I fired up my browser, somehow ended up doing something entirely different and closed it down 15 minutes later. I couldn’t remember what I’d actually gone online for…?
Since I was completely clueless, I figured I may as well check Facebook. ‘Just for a minute’.
Half an hour later I remembered the parking fine. I quickly logged back into my online banking only to find I’d already paid it. “Gosh – all that worry for nothing!”
I decided it’s time to close down the browser and get stuck into some real work.
Feeling a bit lost, I decided to ask my assistant about that minor query I’d asked her to sort out. She wound up giving me a fifteen minute update on all she’d done that morning. Everything was under control, she didn’t need any help. It was just good to know. “Awww….that’s nice.”
She then informed me she was overdue for her lunch break.
Lunch Break? What THE …?
I panicked, realizing I’d achieved nothing meaningful so far. And I was expecting a client in 10 minutes!
I suddenly felt like the proverbial bunny in the headlights. In my panic, I jumped back into the safety of my inbox. “Had I missed anything? Did anyone urgently need my help?”
May I point out here in my defense:
There WAS one email from a client who needed urgent help. Lucky I checked! The problem was, it’d take me 30 minutes to calculate the answers to his questions. So I just got the bare bones of my reply up for the time being. I typed the usual, “Hi John, Not a problem, here’s some calculations for you, blah blah blah” before my appointment arrived.
An hour and a half later, as I was seeing them out the door, my assistant informed me she’d be going in an hour, had I prepared that urgent file for her yet?
I stared at her blankly for a moment before the lights went on. I’d forgotten all about it!
“No, I haven’t had a chance. I’ve been flat-out, so it’ll be ready for you first thing tomorrow.” (Yes, I said this with a straight face. I’m not proud of it. Who are you to judge me, anyway? :))
Thinking I’d dodged THAT bullet, she hit me with a sledgehammer reply by reminding me she wouldn’t be in ‘til lunchtime tomorrow.
I hung my head in shame & headed back to my desk, feeling utterly defeated.
After staring at the wall for a while, I started picking my way through the trail of open screens my morning’s lack of focus had left in its wake.
Just as it was time to pick up the kids from school, I reached the unfinished reply to my client’s urgent query. Just great…!
Sensing a chance for redemption, I hit warp speed and managed to do 30 minutes work in 10. I pressed ‘Send’ on the only truly effective thing I’d achieved that day and raced off on the school run, wishing there was a reset button for this day.
Much love, xx Miriam
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