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What Lives at the Bottom of Your To-Do List?

Written by: Bill Sherman on Saturday, 18 May 2013, 9:33 AM

Have you ever taken time to think about the bottom of your “to do” list? What tasks live there?

I recently spoke with someone who admitted he had tasks on his to-do list which had been there for over a year.

As a busy entrepreneur, he had many tasks to juggle for his new business. He found himself naturally drawn to the development of his product and his customers. Yet, there were other tasks which were much less exciting.

When I asked him to describe the tasks at the bottom of the list, he described them this way:

  • The less-glamorous tasks
  • The dull tasks
  • The time-consuming tasks
  • The long-payoff tasks (ones which were important but wouldn’t yield until much later)

I expect that his description matches what many of us would say about our own to-do lists. ¬†We live in a digital river, where we’re tempted to respond to the most recent e-mail or check out what’s happening on Twitter.

We talked about the bottom of his list, and he sorted it into three categories:

  • Tasks which he should delegate (because someone could do them better)
  • Tasks which he can be delete (because they weren’t really important)
  • Tasks which he had been avoiding and needed to do

The last category is rather interesting. We each have a set of tasks which, deep in our heart, we know that we should take time to do. These tasks are critical to our long-term success, but they’re oh-so-easy to avoid. Perhaps they’re less interesting or even more challenging for us. But, if we want to be successful, we need to actually do these tasks.

We cannot let them linger forever incomplete at the bottom of our To-Do lists.

If you wait to get to the bottom of your to-do list, that will never happen. Newer (and more urgent) tasks will be added to the top of your list. Therefore, you should take time to occasionally look at the bottom of your list. If it has been there for two weeks or more, it’s time to make one of three choices: delegate, delete, or schedule.

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