Rigorous vs. Ruthless: Culling Your Task List

To-Do List Rules

Most people in the business world have heard of, if not read, Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it Collins describes attitudes and practices that took good, so-so companies into realms of greatness. One of these great attributes was a rigorous hiring culture—but not a ruthless one. In the great companies Jim Collins describes, any issues with the people in the company were addressed immediately. However, “Endless restructuring and mindless hacking were never part of the good-to-great model” (p. 53). These companies didn’t fire people just to shrink the payroll, but if a person wasn’t doing well in their position, the companies tried to give that person a different position. If, after trying them in several places, the person still didn’t create results, he or she was immediately let go. Why waste the company’s assets and the employee’s efforts when there were no resulting benefits?

You can take the same approach to the tasks on your to-do list. Your list may be bursting at the seams and need some culling, but don’t try “endless restructuring and mindless hacking” just to shrink the list.

That said, you should refuse or eliminate tasks that aren’t giving you a good return. If you’re close to a major deadline and it will take three hours to fiddle with something for the man in the office next door, ask yourself first what you’ll get out of it. The guy next door will smile and say thank you? The fiddled-with thing will be only marginally improved? Then it isn’t worth your time. It might be worth someone else’s time, so if you have a chance, think about whether or not the task could be better positioned with someone else. If it can’t, don’t waste any time. Act now and eliminate the task from your to-do list and let the man in the next office know it’s not going to happen.

You may feel like you can’t ditch a task—maybe it comes from your boss, or is the brain child of a friend. But even in these more difficult times, it’s important to ditch the tasks if the amount of your life invested does not provide adequate results. Your boss or friend will eventually come to value your cut-and-dried opinion.

What are some ways you are rigorous in culling your to-do list?

Image by Rawich, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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