Get rid of the wish list

In the work environment I’m not a fan of what I refer to as the wish list. To me the wish list are the things you know might need to be done but don’t have sufficient conviction to action them. These are the items that might even make it to your to do list but you prioritise other work over them. To get more done each day and each week you need to get rid of the wish list.

Here’s a scenario I’m seeing too often with how people are working ineffectively. On the surface they understand the need to plan and prioritise their work. They schedule their important or urgent work and then even consider the tasks they know they should be doing. But when it comes time to action some of this scheduled work they reschedule it to another time. So at the end of the day or the end of the week they feel frustrated and even drained due to all of the things they didn’t do that they originally planned to do. And just like Groundhog Day this happens again and again.

The problem here is poor implementation in planning, prioritisation and execution. You see your plan is useless unless you believe in it and are committed to actioning it. Sure plans can change due to priorities outside of our control, but the plan shouldn’t be changing all the time because you lacked conviction to make it happen. The ability to just get on with it and do the work is an important aspect that helps separate achievers from everyone else.

If you use your email calendar or tasks function to schedule your work the signs this is happening is to look at the number of outstanding past due reminders or the amount of unplanned activity in previous weeks (a large amount of unplanned points to work being rescheduled). Alternatively, if you have a paper to do list then the number of outstanding tasks that remain on the list will give you an idea of it occurring.

What can you do about it?

Three actions to consider are:

  • Get real – if you’re not fully committed to action the work then it’s pointless putting it in your plan. I’ve seen well intended people add tasks out of guilt (they know the work should be done) but aren’t fully committed to doing the work. Therefore, plan only the work you intend to do.
  • Get into action – the exception is to reschedule work you have planned, not the default mechanism. Therefore, treat meetings with self to action work with the same level of respect you would in attending a key meeting with your most important customer.
  • Get help – if you’re planning and prioritising your work you have part of the process right but not the complete picture if you are constantly rescheduling or missing deadlines. You need to build a discipline into how you do your best work into your daily rhythm. If you’re unable to do this yourself then get coaching to help you do it.

Solutions don’t need to be complex to make a real difference. When I worked for SSA a technique the worldwide President (Mike Greenough) encouraged staff to adhere to was what he referred to as CAST (consistent application of solid technique). Those who diligently applied CAST frequently produced strong results. Planning, prioritising and executing are areas where CAST can help to drive targeted outcomes. 

Imagine how much better you would feel and more effective you would be if you delivered on what you committed to more than 90% of the time. To achieve this a good place to start is to review your schedule. Get rid of the wish list and build into your daily rhythm the habit of taking action on what you planned.