5 D’s for working your too long to-do list 1


We all have one. The to-do list that is tracking the projects and tasks we are currently doing, are thinking about doing, or wish we were doing. For most people, this list on paper would be multiple pages so we use electronic tools that make it seem manageable. I say seem because frequently this list is unrealistic. Here are my 5 D’s that I use to work through my to-do list in an effort to make it more reasonable, in order:

1. Delete – some things don’t need to be done. That magazine you have been wanting to read because it might have a valuable career insight in one article out of forty. Drop it in the recycle bin and move on. What tasks on your list would never be missed if they accidentally got deleted? Delete them on purpose. (I’m not talking about stuff that may never be missed, but should never be deleted, like this.)

2. Delegate – some things on your list can be done just as well by someone else. The general rule of thumb is if someone can do 80% as well with just input from you, then you should give the task away. A co-worker, a friend, your spouse, your children are all people in your life who may have capacity to help you with items on your list. (Here’s a link that will help you distinguish between delegation and dumping.)

3. Do – sometimes you should take Nike’s tip and “Just Do It”. Some tasks have been on your list for a while, need to be done but you keep putting it off. E-tools make moving things fairly easy so I get good at this. Sometimes I spend more time putting something off over weeks than it would take to do it and move on.

4. Deadline – if you can’t do something right now, giving it a deadline will make it easier to engage your mind in seeing its completion. Note: see item number 3 if you keep moving this deadline.

5. Defer – this is my last resort and should only be considered when I don’t even have enough time to think about when I could begin the steps necessary to move this project forward. I have to resort to a nebulous “Later” for these items. Things repeatedly deferred in my world become likely targets for item number 1, so you might want to consider if it really needs to be done.

Do you find yourself using any of these methods not enough? Too much?


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One thought on “5 D’s for working your too long to-do list

  • Eddie Staples

    I just learned about the Kanban method of project management (which is applicable to your personal to-do’s), and it reminded me of this post! You’ve probably heard of it, but if not I highly recommend investigating it!