Making a List, Checking it Twice
There are lots of lists. Santa allegedly has one, and so does the doorman at an exclusive nightclub. There are lists of best-selling books, best-dressed women, and best beaches. There are also lists of bad movies, epic fails, and people who aren’t allowed to pay by check because their last one bounced. And don’t forget the ever-popular shopping list.
Many people use to-do lists—either electronic or on paper—to help them achieve their professional and personal goals. The concept is simple but powerful.
Step 1: Define a goal
This may be a long-term project such as earning a college degree, training for a marathon, or writing a novel. Or it may be a more limited project, such as clearing up a coding backlog, learning how to use spreadsheet software, or cleaning out the garage.
Step 2: Break it down
Break your project down into smaller components. This is the most important part of the process because it converts a huge, scary goal into a series of smaller, easier goals. If you focus on the project as a whole, you may feel so discouraged that you never even start it. But if you take one step at a time, you can make steady progress while building your self-confidence.
Pick your subsidiary goals based on the type of project. For example, if you want to clean out your garage, your subsidiary goals may consist of different areas of the garage (the storage shelves, the area under the stairs, etc.) or different types of items (the sports gear, the garden tools, etc.).
Make a list of the subsidiary goals, and give some thought to the sequence. To use the garage analogy again, you don’t want to tackle the storage shelves first if there is a huge mound of your kids’ sports equipment piled in front of them. Also, consider whether you can delegate some of the steps, and if so, who is the best candidate for each?
Finally, figure out when the entire project needs to be completed, and then assign a due date to each step. If you have been assigned a big project at work, such as creating an auditing and monitoring program for your radiology practice, then your boss has probably given you a deadline. But if you are working on a personal project, give yourself a deadline that’s challenging but not overwhelming.
Step 3: Dive in
Tackle each step-in turn, and as you finish it, savor the satisfaction of crossing it off on your list. Before you start the next one, consider whether any of the steps should be revised or rearranged, delegated to someone else, or given a different due date.
Step 4: Sprint for the finish line
As you get closer to completing the project, you will probably find yourself more motivated than ever. Take advantage of that additional energy to push for the finish line. When you’re done, celebrate your success—you’ve got a lot to be proud of! Now, what is the next project for your to-do list?