If there were ever a season for to-do lists, it is Christmas time. 'Tis indeed the to-do list season. As I go about my typical Christmas holiday ramp-up, I notice my very existence is governed by my lists. And I am not alone. Most everyone I know is managing multiple to-do lists just to make sure Christmas comes off without a hitch.
Makes me wonder if we are attempting to micro-manage Santa. My leadership studies of Santa Claus suggest that he is an extremely organized older gentleman who excels at delegating. His elves and Mrs. Claus apparently know their jobs well and carry them out flawlessly, year after year. Santa's delivery system is state-of-the-art, complete with a sleigh and a team of personable reindeer. Santa Claus has every reason to be jolly. He is not working off dozens of lists.
So, why the need for all the lists, for the love of St. Nick? You know the lists I am talking about. There is the Christmas gift list, the Christmas card list, the Christmas dinner grocery list, the Christmas decoration list, the goodies for Santa list, the gift-wrapping list, the gift-mailing list, the to-do list, the to-go list, the 'naughty or nice' list, and, of course, the list to keep track of our lists. And, oh, by the way, most of us are maintaining our work to-do lists whilst tracking our Christmas lists. So many end-of-year projects to wrap up, so little time.
I am often rudely awakened from my "long winter's nap" remembering something that must be added to one of those lists. Or, maybe it's time to start a brand new list. No more winter napping until everything banging around in my brain is neatly recorded on the proper list. Oy!
While it is certainly important to keep track of all that needs doing, my darned lists are never-ending. Just about the time I check off four or five items and begin to feel "in control" — oops, I remember 10 more things that need to be added. And so the lists grow.
Searching for some peace during this most wonderful season, I began to fantasize about a couple of other kinds of lists I would like to keep. For example, what if I kept an "all-done" list? Maybe I would feel like I was actually accomplishing some things if I were to track my "all-done" items as rigorously as I track my "to-do."
Or, what if I were to have a "stop-doing" list. What might be on that list? For instance, are there any tasks that get carried over year after year, that take up more time than they deserve? Are there holiday parties, committee meetings, shopping expeditions that could be made more efficient? Are there others who can help me with items on my "stop-doing" list? Are there tasks that I seem to need to do to perfection? When is it good enough?
Tim Ferris, author of the "Four-Hour Work Week," says, "Being busy is often a form of mental laziness leading to indiscriminate action."
"Being disciplined in deciding where to invest our energy — or not — is an important part of the solution," advises Jim Collins, author of the bestseller "Good to Great."
Your Coaching Challenge, should you choose to accept it:
Unlike Old St. Nick, we mortals have limited time and energy, and unlimited demands to fill. Perhaps the last item on our list this year might be the most important for next year. Assess our holiday activities to see if we can give ourselves the gift of peace on earth when next Christmas rolls around.