How does that happen? How to overcome a losing battle with a growing to-do list.

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missed callsThis morning I had twelve things on a to-do list and two key tasks outlined for the first 30 minutes of my day: before I did anything on my list I was going to listen to and prioritize responses to my voicemails, and I was going to organize my desk.

That was at 8:03am today. Just before 5, now with 14 things on my to-do list, I sat back down at my cluttered desk to review my voicemails and saw that I had 19 new missed calls. How does that happen?

Here is how:

  • I didn’t really prioritize these tasks. If I had, I would have gotten them done before I went down so many other rabbit trails.
  • I found other things to do that made me feel more important. It’s not a conscious move, but it’s easy to choose to do the things that seem more glamorous.
  • I allowed the busyness to excuse my sloppiness. There was just so much going on, the office martyr says, I didn’t get time to do those things.

But the truth is, these same things can turn our day, our leadership and our productivity upside down—or right side up, I guess—if we will implement them consistently.

Prioritize other people.

Sometimes, when a person is standing in front of you asking a question, it seems like the priority is them—to focus on them, serve them, or assist them. But the reality is, taking your focus away from project deadlines and unanswered emails or phone calls, negatively impacts everyone. It negatively affects the ability of others (waiting patiently in line in your inbox) to do what they need to do.

Make others feel important.

By jumping in to help, rescue or fix what my team members are doing, I short-circuit their opportunity to fix it themselves. By allowing others time to work through their challenges on their own, you’re really giving them the chance to shine, succeed, and grow—and it also gives you more time to do what only you can do.

Slow down and get it right.

I think I left the office four times yesterday, headed to my car. I forgot my keys, my phone and my sweatshirt. Three trips past the front desk, through the front door, down the front steps and half way across the front lawn to my truck. I was busy, and I had a lot on my mind, but slowing down to think through what I really needed to do, would have saved me two trips. My busyness today generated a number of extra phone calls, emails and text messages—all things which took time to respond to—all of which could have been avoided if I’d have cleaned off my desk and listened to my voicemails first thing as I planned.


How does your tomorrow need to look different, to avoid another day like today?

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