294. I must, I must.

294. I must, I must.

My book, Life Sinks or Soars – the choice is yours, is all about the unarguable rule that choices have played, and will continue to play, in all of our lives.

I have long believed that we are where we are by virtue of the choices we have made and that the greatest gift we, as humans, have been endowed with is the power of choice.

So it may seem strange as we move through this posting, how strongly I advocate for choice removal as a powerful tool for getting things done.

In my day job I have the distinct pleasure and privilege of interacting with a wide variety of people many of whom talk about their daily struggles in maximizing their productivity and in feeling accomplished by their performance.

Most of these folks explain how they have learned, or been taught, to plan their days, schedule their activities and work from an ever-growing written or mental “To Do” list.

The daily distractions of life and the often experienced state of, “I don’t feel like doing this right now”, frequently take us off track leaving us feeling angry and frustrated.

Choices play a huge role in how our days are planned as, depending on what we do during the day, we exercise this power in choosing which items make the “To Do” list for that day, who we meet with, what activities will we undertake.

I have long believed in a simpler, and what I believe to be highly effective, method of ensuring that what must be done, gets done.

Take a sheet of paper for each day of the week and draw a vertical line down the centre.

Write the word “Must” at the top of the left hand side column and the word “Should” on the right. Now in considering what you intend to accomplish that day be very clear, and very cautious about what makes your “Must List.”

Remember this as inalienable fact: We only ever do one thing. We do what is most important in the moment.

This means that any and every item listed on the “Must” side of the ledger very simply must be accomplished that day. Your day cannot and end you don’t go to bed until that item can be checked off your list.

I can already see the hands raised in protest and the “yes but’s” coming forth to explain to me all the reasons why this won’t work.

And while I deeply respect those opinions, my long-time experience in using a Must List both personally and with dozens and dozens of my clients have convinced me that once we learn to jealously guard which activities make it onto the Must List this becomes the means by which we direct our lives.

It is always our choice as to what makes the Must List but once an item is on that list all choices are removed.

The opposite of must is “optional” and anything you think may be optional finds its place on the “Should List.”

Should” means I will if I get around to it, and if I don’t, then perhaps another day.

I have had clients report back to me of having driven back to their offices at 9 o’clock at night to complete a Must List task or of leaving their homes at 10PM because they haven’t yet been to the gym. What is always evident on their faces when they share these stories is the obvious pride at “getting it done.”

If we truly understand what’s important to us and we are determined to do those things that best produce the results we want and need then we must use this Must List to cajole us to stick with the commitments we have made to ourselves.

New users of the Must List very quickly learn to assess all commitments made for each day – meetings etc. – take into account the daily interruptions that are part of our lives, and apply “Window Washing Math” (see blog #277. Don’t manage time, manage possibility.).

Using a Must List will go a long way in removing from our lives the very serious affliction that affects so many of us.

You know the one I mean, it’s called procrastination.

And one of these days I’ll write a blog about it.

Till we read again.

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