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Why You Should Throw Away Your Task List

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I chuckled as I read the words in Kevin Kruse's insightful book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: "Throw away your task list." In my time management and Juggling Elephants training programs I am continually surprised at the number of people who still use such a list as their primary guide for their choice of action throughout the day.

Those of you who do are saying to me, "Well how else am I supposed to keep up with what I need to do?" Kruse's solution, and the one I've used for years, is to work solely from your calendar. 🗓️  In other words, anything you plan to do is scheduled on your calendar. Period.

If you're still making a list of 37 things and finding that you're feeling less than pleased with your accomplishments at the end of the day, here are five benefits you can experience using the calendar method:

YOU WILL REDUCE YOUR BRAIN'S RESISTANCE TO FOCUS ON WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT. 

Two priorities of your brain are to finish things and to conserve energy. If you're frequently reviewing your task list during the day to choose what to work on, your brain wants you to work on what can be completed quickly without a great degree of effort. Looking at your calendar reduces your brain's ability to lead you to tasks that might make you feel good for the moment when completed, but don't really move you forward with your goals.

YOU WILL DEVELOP A BETTER FLOW TO YOUR DAY.

When I first began using the calendar method I was frustrated because there were several small tasks that I felt silly 🙃 putting on my calendar as individual items. What I did, however, was block off a period of time each day to take care of several of these small items. It's usually 45 minutes before I stop for lunch, or the last hour of the day. Now I can physically or mentally drop those items into that time slot.

YOU WILL BE MORE HONEST ABOUT THE REAL TIME AVAILABLE TO YOU.

Using a task list can lead to frequent overload because it doesn't include the time required for each task. Putting everything on your calendar helps you quantify time resources needed for each item, and gives you a more accurate assessment of your day. You'll train yourself to ask, "How long will this task, assignment, or project take to complete?," and then start looking for where it could fit on your calendar.

YOU WILL HAVE A STRONGER MOTIVATION TO SAY "NO."

When you've got all your activities listed on your calendar it's easier to see your limited availability. When people ask, "Have you got a minute?," you can honestly say, "I've got something scheduled right now, but I could talk ...." (at a regularly designated time you have set up on your calendar for such things).

If you need a little help on saying “NO”, I have 13 ways to help you communicate “no” with tact and confidence.

Another strategy you can put into action is a 3 Part Plan where you - Tell Them, Show Them and Train Them…about when you’re available to talk and when it’s just not a good time.

Of course, if their issue is serious enough, you would stop and address it at that moment, and when done, you would reschedule the tasks that got postponed.

YOU WILL HAVE A MORE EFFECTIVE PLAN FOR YOUR WEEKS AND MONTHS.

The calendar method isn't just about more effectively managing your day. It's a powerful tool to evaluate when you can take on larger projects and pursue bigger goals in the future.

And I would be lying if I told you that I don't still have lists. In keeping with the Juggling Elephants philosophy of "3 rings," I have lists where I capture quick thoughts related to work/relationships/self that aren't necessarily time specific. The difference is that in a future planning time I review those lists and determine what needs to be added to my calendar to address these items.

So if you're tired of looking at your task list each day feeling overwhelmed and wondering why your most important things just aren't getting done, try tossing it. I promise you the world won't stop. In fact, it might starting turning more in your favor.

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