Why “To Do” does not “Get Done”

| Posted in Work |


Like most people out there who like to stay organized and focused, I also rely on personal productivity systems. The core of most productivity systems is the age old idea of making to do lists and following up religiously on it. I have tried quite a few methods and of late the transition from to do to done has not been very smooth.One of the main problems I face is the overwhelming feeling of being stuck pursuing a set of tasks. There is a constant pressure to get things done. There, I have said the unthinkable! GTD is a big movement these days and the people I meet who swear by it are usually extremely enthusiastic about it. One has to be careful to reveal to them that your to do lists are gobbling up your gumption and leaving you feeling like a zombie at the end of stressful days.

I am no productivity guru. In fact, I rate myself as very average when it comes to being optimized, primed and ready for anything. Till recently, I did not realize I should have a terrific productivity system in place to feel optimized, primed and ready for anything! I often get a feeling that I missed something important while running behind that high priority to do item. Like having fun while working.

The tyranny of to-do lists is the same as the tyranny of over talkative, micro managers. Making a to-do list is planning. Planning is not doing. In fact, at some point of time, the to do list gains an upper hand over the pleasure of doing something. I might be among the minority or doing something wrong. There have been times I add an item which is fun, but when I get to doing it, the fun evaporates and vanishes.

So, I am looking to make a few changes. I honestly don’t know if there is an alternative to the tyranny of the to do list. However, since I have identified it as the main cause of my distress I am attempting a change.

The whole idea is to get back in control. To Do is no longer the prime driver of my time. In fact, I have chucked out the To Do lists. The rigidity of the list has to be replaced with the flow of activities.

Here are some ideas that I have been thinking of.

Planning is usually revealed in retrospect. Like success. Life is a complex series of events. The human mind is incapable of comprehending all the possibilities. It is impossible to factor in things according to their importance in a dynamic system like the events of everyday life. It requires constant steering and readjustments. Like a missile hitting a moving target.In a constant state of change, we need the ability to adapt, focus on what is in front of us and not what is on the horizon.

Things are never finished and finishing things is often beyond our capabilities, dependent on many external factors. Starting is within our control. We can look at the situation now and choose to start. Once we are in the present and not looking at the future or predicting/measuring how things should have been, we can concentrate on the doing.

Getting rid of the guilt by separating efficiency from ego is another step. I am not just my work. I am not just my goals. A realization that self worth comes above success, failure, efficiency, capability provides a certain level of safety to play freely with the work in front of us. This is important.

Recreation as a tool to concentrate better. We need time away from work to do quality work, enjoy work and develop a capacity to concentrate and engage with our work. This is a contrarian concept, but all artists, musicians and athletes whose work is performance will vouch for the fact that more time they spend away from work, free of guilt, the better the quality of their work.

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