Five gigs and five hundred miles in four days meant that last weekend was busy. Despite being busy, I didn’t feel I’d gotten anything done. The main reason for that feeling was my To Do List.
I’m very good at writing To Do Lists, just not very good at turning ‘Dos’ into ‘Dids’. The problem is that all the items on the list are completely aspirational and are usually tasks I’ve no intention of doing. A typical list will have such milestones as:
* Sort out spare room
* Get muscles
* Be a better person
Sometimes there are more definite items on the list like ‘Take out the bins’ however at that stage I’m in such a state of despair that accomplishing anything is simply out of the question. “The inertia is overwhelming” I explain to the wife.
I’ve done the Time Management training courses and they give good advice. Unfortunately the advice was in the form of a list of things to do.
The animal kingdom may have the answers. Ants are often held up as exemplars of hard workers. The secret of their success is that their To Do Lists are very short, often with just one item.
* Carry 100 times own body weight.
By and large, ants succeed because they are not being distracted by others. For a start they don’t have to go to meetings. If an ant nest is attacked, there isn’t a series of Root Cause Analysis and Lessons Learned Meetings. Ants just get a new To Do List. Again it’s short.
* Go Mental.
Meetings aren’t all bad, however. They can be a great opportunity to get some proper thinking done. Particularly thinking about some of the facial tics of the people you work with. From time to time your reverie may be interrupted by someone asking you a direct question. If you’re stumped just reply “It’s on my list”. Even if it isn’t. The mention of someone’s list usually reassures people and the spotlight moves on. A meeting is not a court of law and you will probably not be asked for material proof. Your notebook will not be subpoenaed.
Families can also be a distraction. Again this not a problem in the insect world. Ants have large families, but they don’t talk much. When an ant is attacking a caterpillar and hoisting it onto its back, it’s not interrupted by a text message saying “cud u get mlk and 20 Suprkng on way bak?”
Children are the main source of interruption. They have to be fed, clothed, roared at. There are, of course, alternatives. One is to not have any children at all. Nephews and nieces are just as good. When they do something good, you can bask in their reflected glory. If they turn out bad, blame the parents. If you do need someone to support you in your old age, consider adopting a wealthy adult.
The other option is to do a bit of lateral thinking. Why not send your children to your meetings? They are provided with a warm dull atmosphere to render them docile and lifeless and you can get work done in the meantime. Be careful though, as children are notoriously truthful and they may inadvertently reveal that you spent your ‘sick’ day down the pub.
With all this distraction, is it possible ever to finish a To Do list?
We should try, because there is tremendous smugness to be had from finishing your To-Dos. I once worked next to a girl who each day made a big show of crossing off tasks and muttering to herself “That’s that done, and that… oh and that’s done as well. Cool!” I would glare enviously over at her notebook, which was a riot of red biro slashes. “Show Off” I thought to myself as I added “Get red biro” to my own list.
To capture some of that sense of well being, I’ve decided to rethink my To Dos and pick ones that are more achievable and realistic. Here’s my first draft.
* Item 1: Write To Do list – in progress
* Check Facebook, email, email on Facebook, the letterbox. (This is important. New information may have arrived which dramatically changes the direction of your day. Even if there is no new information, even if it’s only that someone has LOLLed and LMAOed at comment you put on Tracey’s photo about her “always being langerated”, it’s important that you found out about it now. )
* Go on Wikipedia – (Wikipedia is the equivalent of being kidnapped by the Internet. You may start on a page about Time Management. However within five clicks you are now reading that Ho Chi Minh City has a population of over 7.162 million and along the way, learned that Dinny Allen won an U-21 All Ireland with Cork in 1971.
* Check email again, you never know.
If your list seems a little short, don’t forget, if you do anything, add it to your TO DO list retrospectively and then cross it out. This gives a handy psychological boost.
* Go to toilet
* Sit down again
* Scratch head
I’m feeling better already – definite progress has been made and there’s just one more thing to strike off the list.
* Finish Cork News article abruptly