Why not finishing your to-do list is a good thing


To-do-list-and-business-bookI referenced this point in an earlier post summarizing key takeaways from Marissa Mayer‘s keynote at Dreamforce last year, but it bears repeating and expanding upon briefly here.

Let’s say you have a to-do list today of 10 tasks. They’re not all equal, are they? Some tasks are far more important than others. They either represent a critical path to your objectives, are critical path to broader team goals, or simply carry more weight in terms of their intended or potential outcome than other tasks.

Most of the time, these more important to-do items are also harder, more involved, more intimidating. They’re the tasks that we often postpone or procrastinate. It’s sometimes more fun or easier to get the other tasks done, and there’s a great feeling of accomplishment to crossing things off your list.

But tasks 2-10 might together, combined, not be nearly as important as task #1. And in that case, if you complete task #1 and don’t quite get to tasks #2-10, isn’t that still a more successful day?

Doing this kind of triage and priority-setting isn’t easy. And ideally everything on your to-do list is important for some reason (even task #10). But you can be more disciplined about ranking tasks based on importance, and working from the top down, I bet you’ll fee far more productive and successful (even though there will always be more work left to do).