In an intensely competitive and, occasionally, unforgiving business environment, it has never been more important to maximise our efficiency so ensuring we maintain pace with the demands the world appears to impose upon us.

As a useful tool to aid our own time management and productivity many of us use ‘To Do lists'. In a recent conversation, however, I was reminded of the pitfalls that can come when these lists are allowed to manage us - instead of vice versa.

For example, when people are feeling vulnerable from the effects of too much stress and anxiety at work the 'To Do list' can become a stick with which they beat themselves. E-mail in-boxes can have a similar effect, but that’s for another day.

So when does the transition from useful asset to burden occur? Are there tell tale signs that 'To Do lists' are no longer working for us?

Their main effect is as a constant reminder of the sheer weight of work yet to be done – and within us there’s no room for discussion as it’s all there in black and white staring us in the face.
The list will not let us forget how behind we have fallen as new items are loaded on to the bottom of the list while things are not coming off the top quickly enough.
In some cases the list can undermine self-esteem as our mental energy stalls at the prospect of the mounting number of tasks to be done. We begin to self criticise and to judge ourselves as not being up to the job.
Not only do we not do what is on the list, but we start making repeat lists of the same items with revisions and additions.

Once we get into this mind set the priority is to get out of it and not to keep swimming against a tide where the law of diminishing returns begins to take hold.

In a few days I shall post the second part of this blog that will provide some tips as to how to assemble and use 'To Do lists' in such a way to avoid them becoming a rod for our backs. What goes on to the list needs to be every bit as important as our getting jobs done – so by following simple criteria we can ensure that the To Do list remains a useful tool instead of the craftsman!

Alan Keyse

Author's Bio: 

After three decades as a sales executive for Italian corporations, my approach to life and business coaching is very much a results driven process. I guide my clients to set achievable but challenging goals which become realized through positive planning and relentless forward momentum.