If ever there were a season for to-do lists, it is Christmas time. 'Tis indeed the to-do list season. As I go about my typical Christmas holiday ramp up, I notice my very existence is governed by my lists. And, I am not alone. Most everyone I know is managing multiple to do lists just to make sure Christmas comes off without a hitch. Makes me wonder if we are attempting to micromanage Santa. My leadership studies of Santa Claus suggest that he is an extremely organized older gentleman, who excels at delegating. His elves and Mrs. Claus apparently know their jobs well and carry them out flawlessly, year after year. Santa's delivery system is state of the art, complete with a sleigh and a team of personable reindeer. Santa Claus has every reason to be jolly. He is not working off dozens of lists.
So, why the need for all the lists, for the love of St. Nicholas? You know the lists I am talking about. There is the Christmas gift list, the Christmas card list, the Christmas dinner grocery list, the Christmas decoration list, the goodies for Santa list, the gift wrapping list, the gift mailing list, the to-do list, the to-go list, the 'naughty or nice' list, and, of course, the list to keep track of our lists. And, oh by the way, most of us are maintaining our work to-do lists whilst tracking our Christmas lists. So many end of year projects to wrap up, so little time.
I am often rudely awakened from my 'long winter's nap' remembering something that must be added to one of those lists. Or, maybe it's time to start a brand new list. No more winter napping until everything banging around in my brain is neatly recorded on the proper list.
While it is certainly important to keep track of all that needs doing, my darned lists are never ending. Just about the time I check off four or five items and begin to feel "in control," oops, I remember 10 more things that need to be added. And so the lists grow.
Searching for some peace during this most wonderful season, I began to fantasize about a couple of other kinds of lists I would like to keep. For example, what if I kept an all done list? Maybe I would feel like I was actually accomplishing some things, if I were to track my "all dones" as rigorously as I track my "to-do's."
Or, what if I were to have a "stop doing" list. What might be on that list? For instance, are there any tasks that get carried over year after year, that take up more time than they deserve? Are there holiday parties, committee meetings, shopping expeditions that could be made more efficient? Are there others who can help me with items on my "stop doing" list? Are there tasks that I seem to need to do to perfection, when good is good enough?
Tim Ferris, author of the "Four-Hour Work Week," says "Being busy is often a form of mental laziness leading to indiscriminate action." "Being disciplined in deciding where to invest our energy (or not) is an important part of the solution," advises Jim Collins, author of bestseller, "Good to Great."