Never-ending "to do" lists might be forcing people to manage their time rather than their attention, says consultant Linda Stone. She argues that managing time increasingly is counter-productive. The problem is that to-do lists have a way of expanding, leaving the list-makers feeling burned out.
Managing one's attention might be more important, Stone argues. The issue is what is meant by managing attention. "Each evening or morning before you start your day, make a short list of your intentions (the result and feeling of something you want) for the day and by each, write the related to do's for that day," she says. "Try to keep your list to five intentions."
"Consciously choose what you will do and what you will not do," she notes. "Keep a different list of what you will review for inclusion on other days."
"List only what you really expect to do that day," she says, not a list of all things you want to do for a longer period. "As other things come to mind, write them on a separate list," she says. That keeps you focused on only those things which must be done today, rather than creating anxieties about "all the things that must be done."
One of the more difficult--but perhaps most important pieces of advice is to "give yourself meaningful blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on each intention," she says. "Turn off technology each day during those blocks and focus on your intentions."
Lots of you immediately--and rightly--will note that much of your "to do" list is not under effective control. That especially will be true in staff and line organizations where departmental requests, inbound customer support volume and software or hardware failures are the drivers of immediate "to do" lists. In such cases the original items on a daily "to do" list simply will be pushed over to the "do later" list.
But all of that is reason for creating better methods for screening and filtering communications and messages that really can be avoided.
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