Many of us prepare To-Do lists. It is a prioritized lists of all the tasks that we need to carry out generally ”soon”. So, first we make a list of everything that we have to do, than make a ranked list with the most important tasks at the top of the list, and the least important tasks at the bottom. It is not so simple to prepare a To-Do list, and the question is whether we have some ”best” algorithm of constructing one. There are different features of tasks we have to do it, say urgency, expected penalty for postponing, the time you should assign to do the job, etc. You certainly can not postpone to pick up your kid from the kindergarten. If your boss asks you to tell your quick opinion about a situation (maybe in a form of list) at noon, you will decide whether you do it before or after lunch (well, an eager beaver could do instead of lunch). Some people believe that a LONG To-Do list is the proof of their value and indispensability. Not speaking about the sad fact that cemeteries are full with indispensable people, successful people are able to outsource their tasks, as most famously Tom Sawyer did with the whitewashing of the fence.
It is reasonable to have a To-Do lists for different time scales, for short term, intermediate term and long term projects. ”Short term” might be one day, or in busy periods maybe two hours. We should write down things, and it is useful to use with pen and paper (used envelopes are very good for this purpose!). Our conscious mind is able to keep not more than four-five things at once, and generally we have more things to do one day. (Can you write down how many things you have to do today, or if your read this paragraph in the late evening, than tomorrow?)
Hundred years ago, Ivy Lee, an industry consultant suggested a seemingly simple technique to the steel magnate Charles M. Schwab.
- At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day
- Repeat this process every working day.
The technique worked, and Lee got a check of $25.000, (and you can multiply this number with fifteen to calculate its equivalent today. Since I am very modest, send me only the original amount if the technique works for you.)
5 thoughts on “To-Do lists”
Warren Buffet has his own trick to manage priorities. In a famous story, he asked his personal airline pilot, Mike Flint, to list 25 things he wanted to do — List A. Then he made him circle the top five among these — List B. Here’s how the conversation went, according to James Clear:
Flint: “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Buffett: “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
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Thanks. I am considering to use the copy-paste function…
Is this an offense or a compliment?
Both, of course.
Very interesting article. Is it supposed to be Tom Sawyer instead of Tam Sawyer when talking about the Whitewashing?