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Is Your To-Do List Killing You?

06.26.19 | Chris Belfi | 0 Scale make your to-do list work for you, Is Your To-Do List Killing You?

One tip to make your to-do list work for you — not against you

What do you see when you look at your to-do list?

Highly specific action steps — or vague ideas that make you want to bang your head on your desk instead of getting to work?

What does a vague to-do list look like?

This is a common mistake I see advisors make all the time. And the worst part is, their lack of to-do list progress gets self-labeled as laziness and procrastination. So, if you have ever looked at your to-do list in frustration and blamed yourself for not building momentum, perhaps you are not the problem. Maybe your to-do list is sabotaging your efforts. 

Let’s pull up your to-do list right now. Maybe you use a notepad, a checklist on your phone, or a Google Doc. Open it up — and look for offenders that look like this. 

  • Parents’ anniversary
  • Dermatologist
  • Car
  • Roof
  • Paraplanner

Can you notice a pattern between these to-do items?

That’s right. None of these are actions. Items like this are a symptom that you haven’t actually decided what it is you need to do. Let me throw out a prediction: it’s probably not going to get done.

Ready to fix your to-do list?

Great! Let’s look at each of these items and figure out exactly what it is that you need to do. A new list might look something like this. 

  • Login to 1-800-Flowers.com and order flowers for parents
  • E-mail Christine to ask for contact info on her dermatologist
  • Call Mike to schedule tire rotation and oil change for the car
  • Login to Angie’s list to look up 3 local roofing contractors to request repair quotes
  • Review 10 resumes in my files to identify 3 candidates to interview for paraplanner position

When your to-do list is filled with specific, concrete, physical actions, you have set yourself up for success.

I know what you’re thinking.

“But Chris, that’s too much work to boil down every item on my to-do list to a specific, concrete, physical action.”

You’re right. It is hard work. It’s also hard and frustrating to be overwhelmed by vague items on your to-do list. 

And here’s the truth. If you want to make progress on your list, you will have to define those specific actions at some point. By deciding now, you make it much easier to get it done later. It’s in your own best interest to invest energy in defining and clarifying next actions before they get a chance to slow you down.

Too often, you miss opportunities to get something done (and create more time for yourself and your family) because you don’t have enough mental energy to decide exactly what needs to be done.  Don’t make this mistake. Banish vague items from your to-do list — and watch your productivity soar!

Are you bumping up against a next action that’s particularly tough to nail down? Share it below in the comments. I’d love to help!

Chris Belfi

Chris Belfi is the founder and CEO of MaxPotential Coaching.
His company works with executive-level leaders and business owners and who are drowning in their own success and feel underwater in a sea of things they are supposed to get done. Through proven techniques, MaxPotential Coaching allows executives to take control of their endless to-do list and the other details of their lives and work, go home on time, and create the space to do what matters most to them. Chris can be contacted at
[email protected]. Learn more at http://www.MaxPotentialCoach.com.