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 holiday ramp up, I notice my very existence is governed by 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. It 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 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 team of reindeer. Santa Claus has every reason to be jolly. He is not working from dozens of lists.
For the love of St. Nick, why the need for all the lists? You know the lists I am talking about. There's 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. Oh, and by the way, most of us are maintaining our work-to-do lists while 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. Oy!
While it is certainly important to keep track of all that needs doing, my darn lists are never-ending. Just about the time I check off four or five items and begin to feel in control, 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 dos. 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 or 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?
Author Jim Collins says, "Being disciplined in deciding where to invest our energy (or not) is an important part of the solution."