To Do or Not To Do

To Do or Not To Do

Author: Joel Peterson

The world moves so fast that we often need lists just to remember to get things done as they speed past us. Some lists are more fun than others. Grocery lists build anticipation for delicious snacks and meals that lie ahead.  Wish lists are chock full of hope and expectation.  Bucket lists help you prioritize before you die.  These assorted check lists delight those who live to feel a sense of accomplishment every single moment of the day.  You know who you are. Does the name Day-Timer evoke feelings of control and organization that make your pulse race? Thought so.

In the fast-paced day of an HRDEPT1, a To Do List allows you to keep track of every task that comes your way.  It is also a means for keeping track of long-term items you need to get done when you get time.

I get that. But I must confess that I am not a fan of To Do Lists.  While a good To Do List can be an HRDEPT1’s friend,  it can also be like a high maintenance employee, a pain in the neck.  (What’s that you say? You don’t have high maintenance employees? Yeah, me either.)

At their worst, these lists are more stress-inducing than effective.  (My heart rate is elevating just looking at the words TO DO as I type this!)

For example, toss a side-eyed glance at your current To Do List right now.  Go on. The items at the top of the list were put there way back when you started the list. But since then, the list has grown and evolved.  More recent and possibly more pressing items stack up against the items you originally put on the list.  Now, those first items sit there staring at you like a sad puppy as a reminder of what you set out to do…but haven’t done. Right??  I dare you to check your pulse now

So what are we…wait for it…TO DO about this dilemma?

Sometimes the best way to approach something is from the other end. 

I know you’re chuckling but it’s true!  But consider this.  Instead of listing everything you need to do before you do it, try what I call the Got Done List.

A Got Done List starts every day as a blank notepad at your desk.  As you complete a task, write down a brief description of what it was on that notepad.  As you move throughout your wildly unpredictable day make sure you keep writing down tasks you complete on your Got Done List.

Then, and this is my favorite part, at the end of the day, take a minute to look over your Got Done List and just watch what happens to you.

If a To Do List has the power to make you feel hopeless and reminds you of all that you DIDN’T get done, a Got Done List will make you aware of how much you DID get done during your wildly unpredictable day.  Some of it may have, in fact, been on your To Do List but don’t be surprised if most of what you accomplished was not on any list at all to begin with.

When you look at all you ACTUALLY got done, instead of what you SHOULD have gotten done, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that makes you almost forget you ate lunch in ten minutes at 4:50 p.m. before a 5:00 p.m. meeting.  No seriously. You’ll go home feeling like your day was productive in spite of its wildly unpredictable nature if you can see all that you actually did get done.  That’s what the Got Done List can do for you.

The Got Done List is Not Just A Pretty List

Let’s talk data for a second. Aside from making you feel good about yourself, a Got Done List is an awesome tool for you to use in conversations with your boss and colleagues about the demands of your role as an HRDEPT1.  If they complain about what they perceive is your lack of effectiveness, show them what you GOT DONE and they’ll change their tune. You can’t hide from the facts.

Furthermore, your Got Done List can provide the evidence you need to request support.  When you suggest a change in procedure, policy or planning, your Got Done List can help you show how changing the way things are done will increase your efficiency and perhaps even positively affect the bottom line.  If knowledge is power, in this case, data is a call to action.

So I dare you to put aside your Day-Timer, your carefully sculpted To Do List, and that stack of chaotic Post-It’s you have all over your desk.  Instead, keep an active Got Done List for one week and see what you discover. It’s amazing what a change in perspective can do.

What other tools do you use to help you stay organized?

Let’s agree to join forces and turn our one-person departments into a great network of creativity and ideas.

Look! It’s 5:00 p.m. – time for my lunch.  Thanks for the check list…I mean, the check in!

Joel Peterson is Director of Human Resources and Administration at Goshow Architects in New York City.  Joel began his career as a professional actor before transitioning into Human Resources.  His diverse, creative background spans a variety of industries ranging from international education, the pharmaceutical industry, and public television. For the last eight and a half years, Joel has worked in the architectural industry where as an HR pro he helps build the people who build the buildings.  Outside the office, Joel is the Social Media Director for the New York State SHRM Council and volunteers for the New York State Special Olympics.

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