Getting To-Dos to To-Done

Yep, I just went there. I couldn’t help myself with that title.Seriously though, there’s a real problem here.

While over 63% of professionals create to-do lists, a paltry 11% actually finish the tasks they plan to do each day. Thanks LinkedIn via WSJ.

photo via koalazmonkey

Like we did last week, let’s start with a simple scenario to set the mood:

    You just ran a great meeting. Success!!
    That in itself is a challenge, right? The team now has a solid list of to-dos for everyone.
    However, two weeks go by and at best 1/2 of those tasks are done.

Now if you’re like one of my old bosses, you’d march right down to everyone’s desks and demand an explanation. Although your team might demand in return that you get some people skills. Just saying.

For the rest of us, it’s going to take a little more tact to get your team to get these to-dos done for you.

3 Reasons Why To-Dos Don’t Get Done
Before learning what you can do to fix this, let’s first figure out why your to-dos aren’t getting done.

1. Procrastination

Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Well, when we get overwhelmed by tasks we continually put them off.  photo via miiitch

2. Forgetfulness
I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night. People forget; it just happens. And a lot of times it’s the to-dos they owe you that they’re forgetting.

3. Prioritization
Put another way, there aren’t enough hours in the day. People prioritize the best they can, and will inevitably prioritize differently than you do.

How To Fight Unfinished To-Dos
What next? Since we now know a bit of the “why” behind to-dos not getting done, we can figure out how to combat those reasons.

Here’s a list of 3 ways to help you get your to-dos done:

1. Simplify The Task
Make the to-do as simple and actionable as possible. If your to-do was “Plan Next Month’s Sales Conference”, would you be overwhelmed? Because I sure would be.

Instead, start simple and with a specific task, such as, “Pick Date for Sales Conference”. That’s much more manageable, right?

2. Remind the Person
It’s ok to send a reminder to someone. Now don’t send them an email every hour on the hour until it’s done, but if it’s been a few days and you’re still waiting on an update, feel free to send a gentle reminder.

Even better – get a tool (Hint hint – Less Meeting) to do the dirty work for you. If someone owes you an action item, Less Meeting automatically reminds them about it for you in their Daily Digest.

3. Own the Prioritization
Be crystal clear about when you need your to-do done. And make sure the other person understands why it’s important. This provides “actionable accountability”.

Meetings are largely about actions. What good is it, though, if the actions you’re creating aren’t getting done? Instead, keep these 3 tips in mind next time someone owes you a to-do and we should be able to get a heck of a lot more than 11% of our work done each day.

And if you liked this post on follow-ups, check out the last post on how to schedule follow-up meetings.

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