What to do if you are worried about To-Dos

February 7, 2019

You are worried about your To-Dos. Well, let me share my experiences with you.

From the time that I can remember, I am quite organized.

Consequently, for many years, I carried a small spiral notebook and a pen in my shirt pocket. It carried my list of To-Dos. I had divided the notebook into personal and work-related To-Dos. Over the years, technology has taken over. Therefore, I now have all my To-Dos in Google Keep.

I have never had any problems with punctuality. Therefore, in my meetings with friends even during college, I would be asked to come much later for a meeting. My friends knew that I would always make it a few minutes before the scheduled time while my friends followed the infamous Indian Stretchable Time. Furthermore, being a facilitator reinforced my habit.

Did you know that for facilitators, being early is considered ‘on time’ and being on time is considered ‘late’?

I have never missed a train or a flight in my life. In fact, I am often mocked, particularly by my family, for being at the station or the airport a trifle too early. In addition to wanting to be there ahead of time, incidentally, I also love being at such locations – it provides me with a lot of material for my writing. However, once, I was at a ‘silent’ airport where no boarding announcements were being made and I was fully immersed in a book. As a result, I missed my flight. Guess what I was reading? ‘Celebrating Silence’, a book by Sri Sri Ravishankar. Quite apt, you’d say!

Leading teams

While leading teams, I used to observe that when my team entered the room for a meeting, they would come in empty-handed – no notebooks or pens. The meeting could be to discuss the progress of a project in which many of them had a role to play. It could be about an important announcement that had a bearing on their work in the following days or weeks. In the first few meetings, I saw that they nodded innocently to all suggestions in the meeting but nothing really would come off it in terms of actions.

In a subsequent meeting, I joked to them that they seem to have come in to attend a discourse of a religious leader. I would remind them of that popular philosophical saying in Hindi that translates to: ‘We came into this world empty-handed and shall return empty-handed.’ My team was smart. They got the message and returned with their notebooks for subsequent meetings. I worked with them so that they could appreciate the value of organizing themselves and their work.

N2D: a simple learning session

Later, having felt the same need for other teams, I created a simple 3-hour learning session known as N2D (Notebook to Diary). If you are worried about To-Dos, this session is for you. This session was about how:

  • tasks enter our lives
  • these tasks need to be appropriately classified based on priority to give them the attention they deserve
  • to create sub-tasks or sub-activities that help us estimate the dependencies for these tasks
  • to evaluate risks
  • to estimate the time taken
  • to create hard and soft deadlines
  • to escalate in time
  • to close the loop with the stakeholders
  • to run effective self-reviews and project reviews
  • to raise your per hour productivity
  • to be a goal-achiever

A dripping tap

Our lives are full of seeming trivialities. Right from the beginning of the day, small seemingly trivial tasks, both work-related and personal begin accumulating and continue through the day. However, these seeming trivialities when ignored, have the power to bring us down. And you are worried when you are down.

Imagine a dripping tap that slowly fills a bucket. Each drop is a new task that adds to our existing list of tasks.

At the minimum, daily, we must clear at least as much water as gets accumulated in a day. This way, we will stay in control. However, to wrest effective control of our lives, every day we must be able to clear more water than what gets collected daily.

A Leader’s ‘Bucket’ List

In a sense, an effective leader would have very little water (meaning pending tasks) in the bucket. This demonstration of effective Results Leadership is really a combination of:

  • a desire to achieve
  • being able to say No
  • a full understanding of what it takes to complete the task effectively
  • effective prioritization
  • a realistic assessment of self and team capability
  • effective time management
  • seeking help in time
  • effective delegation
  • effective coaching
  • effective project review
  • timely escalations
  • inspiring the team
  • effective performance management including firing consistent non-performers in time.

It is the discipline of chasing small tasks to completion that helps us work effectively on the big goals.

An overflowing bucket means urgencies, crises and firefighting situations. Furthermore, an overflowing bucket can add stress to your life. You are worried.

As a leader of your life, you just cannot have an overflowing bucket.

The joy of being on top of things

The empty space available in the bucket represents the joy of being on top of things. Obviously, this joy shows up in life as a light head and a spring in the step. Although I am extremely busy, I still manage to keep a light head and manage a spring in my step, thanks to being well organized.

Not addressing these trivialities in time can create a backlog. Finally, what happens to your life when you deal with too much backlog?

My Quote #277 says it all: ‘Backlog can weigh you down.’


Further reading: Click here to read my post on how to leverage those 10-minute slots appearing in your day.


Currently, I am coaching a couple of very senior professionals on Results Leadership. Both of them have a huge project on hand where the impact of the coaching can be seen. Therefore, the coaching agenda covers many of the competencies discussed in this post.

One Life, Act Now! Turn your life around!

To drop your worries and be an achiever, master Results Leadership.

Interested in getting coached on Results Leadership? Contact me at [email protected]

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