Your brain likes and craves certainty. Your Prefrontal Cortex helps you make decisions and solve problems. When professionals don’t have a clear plan, or haven’t noted or tracked all their to-dos, pending deadlines, or great ideas, uncertainty surely follows. The other things that often follow are missed deadlines, forgotten ideas, lost opportunities and bad decisions.
“The loss of prefrontal function only occurs when we feel out of control. It’s the prefrontal cortex itself that is determining if we are in control or not. Even if we have the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.”
While a solid, trustworthy, electronic task list, loaded up with everything you need to do, is the best tool you can use in your work day, control can still appear as an “illusion.” This is because our day always changes and that’s the only thing we can count on for certain. But the best way to protect yourself, your plans and your success is by doing everything you possibly can to stay informed, stay flexible and stay on top of everything you’ve committed to. This is the closest you’ll ever be to staying “in control.”
Add a high level of certainty to your day
Your day can change instantly when unfortunate events occur (death in the family, medical issues, sick children, etc…) or bonus opportunities present themselves (new prospects, requests for bids, fortuitous meetings, winning a last-minute vacation, etc…) So to help you preserve this control over your work day and how you spend your time you need a task list that not only encompasses everything you’re working on or that you plan to do, but you’ll need a task list that will always be ready for change – and easy to change – as soon your day changes.
You’re going to perform better and be more productively when you can give yourself a higher degree of certainty by noting everything your brain is trying not to forget – projects, tasks, reminders, considerations and ideas – plus “do” dates for taking action (for all except ideas, which aren’t actionable yet.)
Use a list you can rely on
Whether it’s an idea or a true task for action, typing it into an electronic Task list creates peace of mind. When it’s on a list with a date for targeted action, it’s off your mind. Your e-mail system likely comes with a calendar, an address book and a task list. Take advantage of the tools you have – specifically the task list – so you can not only get things off your mind, but also get them into a system where you can prioritize more easily.
A list for everything and everything on its list
Ideas that aren’t actionable yet should be in their own bucket apart and aside from your task bucket. When you’re looking at each list, complete with their full inventory, you’ll be able to decide what should happen first, second and third. For ideas, you’re deciding what should happen at all and when one of them is ready for action, it gets moved to your task list.
Make the investment
Is there time invested up front to build the list? You bet. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Until you fully build it, you won’t know or understand the relief, the freedom and the control it provides. It will become the star of your work day show. You’ll be able to get rid of lots of paper, file away lots of files, toss plenty of post-it notes, make lots of progressive decisions, and capture oodles of tasks you forgot about. Plus, you can get organized at the same time.
Here’s what else you can enjoy:
- You can make better use of your time, now that you know what you could/should be doing.
- You can target your priorities now that you’re crystal clear on what they are.
- You can get a better sense of what to say “no” to in the future, now that you see how much you said “yes” to.
- And you can pursue your “must-do” and “can’t wait to do” tasks and projects now that you’ve been reinvigorated and newly motivated from shedding everything else you didn’t need to see, do or think about after all.