Vail Daily column: What to do with our ‘to-do’ lists |

Vail Daily column: What to do with our ‘to-do’ lists

Michael Norton
Climbing to Success

As I attended a training session and workshop on accountability and goal setting this week, the facilitator took the class through a few very interesting exercises. And as many times as I have either attended such workshops in the past or have even taught or coached about the topic, I realized that I was not doing the behaviors that had brought me success in the past.

Now, my ‘To-Do’ list is not the issue. I still write down my “to-do” list the night before or early in the morning before my day gets started. But there were a few problems that became very apparent as I realized where I started cutting corners.

The reason why

The first problem was that I stopped writing down the “why” next to each item on my “to-do” list. Understanding the “why” is so important in helping to prioritize what really needs to get done. As I sat in the class and flipped back through my notebook at my “to-do” lists from the past month or so, I realized that my lists just kept getting longer and longer and I was just muscling my way through what needed to get done.

Some days, I had more than 30 items on the list, and only got to 10 or 15 things. Part of me says that I should feel a sense of accomplishment for getting those 10-15 things done, but on the other hand, there were 15 to 20 things that I didn’t get done.

The specificity issue

The second problem was that I stopped attaching the items on my “to-do” list to my personal and professional goals. The “why” helps to address that, but the more specific that we can be when we set our goals, take daily action towards the achievement of those goals and then have the discipline and commitment to actually doing what needs to get done, the more meaningful our “to-do” list becomes. And the result is that we move closer to reaching our goals.

Delegating on the lists

The third problem, and maybe the biggest problem, was that I realized I stopped delegating where I could. I stopped listing the names of people who could help me or who I could ask to take over a project or opportunity. I developed a mentality that I would load up my list and I will conquer everything on my own.

Maybe you are a list-maker too, maybe not. If you are, I would encourage you to remember to write down the “why” next to each item on your list; Take a less-is-more approach and focus on the most important items. Attach the item on your ‘“to-do” list to a specific goal, whether that goal is a near-term goal or long-term goal. And lastly, write down who you may be able to ask for help or delegate a task to.

How about you? Are you making lists for the sake of making lists? Do you have a very concise list that is tied to your goals and dreams? Either way, I would love to hear all about how you organize your “to-do” lists at And when we can learn to manage what we do with our “to-do” lists, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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