To-Do Or Not To-Do, That Is the Question!

One thing that I incorporated into my life recently that has helped reduce my stress and made me more productive is the use of a goal list.  I realize a conversation about setting goals isn’t the “I’m so motivated that I can move mountains and run through walls” kind of topic, but sometimes doing the small things right can lead to bigger victories!  Setting goals can be done in many different ways so I narrowed my usage to three: daily to-do lists, yearly goals and long-term goals.  I have never been a goal setter, honestly because I didn’t have a reason to be.  When I was working for Dick’s Sports I received my check, paid my bills, went on vaca and that was about it.  I didn’t have any aspirations at that job as it was supposed to be a transition from the country club to something else.  The problem was “something else” didn’t come along and “transition” turned into 7 years in the blink of an eye!  The only goals I can recall having prior to that were to become a Class A PGA Professional, manage a top golf club and graduate college.  All of these things I had achieved by the time I was in my mid to late 20’s and I did not reevaluate and reset my goals; I kind of coasted from there.  Which was a mistake I guess, but I’m a firm believer that your past shapes you into who you are now, which prepares you for the next step in life!   That’s my positive spin on spending about 13 years coasting!

I decided to introduce goal setting because most successful people do it, therefore, it must be important.  (Click the FOLLOW button so you can more easily visit or revisit past articles covering the list of traits of the successful.)  But for those that know me I had to ask why.  What is it about setting goals that is so important?   What have I been missing out on after all these years?  And, would goal setting be necessary for me to be successful?  It is still new to me, but instead of researching what others say and giving you that angle, I’m going to approach it from what I’ve experienced so far.  To begin, I think you need to have personal goals and professional goals.  For our purposes here I am going to talk about professional daily goal setting, understanding the principles are transferable.

Each morning after I fill the coffee press I sit down and formulate my daily to-do list.  I carry a 5 Star Mead notebook with me every where I go and have for over a year now.  It has become my “friend” and I feel naked without it.  Yeah, yeah, I hear the “grandpa” comments in your mind so just let them out in the comment section!  First, I am always mindful to put the date at the top as this is not some random list of things that I’ll get done when I get free time.  The date says to me “I am your to-do list for today and I require you to focus on me all day for guidance!”  Then, I start my list with any items I was unable to complete from the day before.  Next, I add things that I need to get done immediately along with appointments and phone calls that need to be made.  And lastly, I end with one long-term goal that is present from list to list as a constant reminder.  I keep my list restricted to 4-5 items and it maintains position on page 1 of my notebook.  I have also made a 2nd posting showing an example of my daily list, cleverly titled “An Example of My Daily To-Do List.” 

How a daily to-do list has helped me so far:

1.  Gives me a sense of accomplishment.   There is nothing like accomplishment to build confidence.  And the more you check off your list the more confident you become!

2.  Keeps me focused.  I understand clearly what I need to work on throughout each day to achieve my daily goals.

3.  Helps me get things done. 

4.  Helps me use my time more effectively

5.  Reminds me to do the best job that I can do on the things that I am working on right now and let the future worry about itself.

6.  Clears my mind of stress as I no longer have to remember everything.

7.  Provides support to my year-long goal

I have spent the last few years worrying a lot,  mostly about the future as I take my responsibility as a husband and hopefully one day, a father, very seriously.  I have accepted worry as a part of me and my personality as it has been with me for as long as I can recall.  When I was in school I would worry about a test, then take the test and worry about the result until I received my grade.  The trial was over once I confirmed I had received my A or B and it was then that I put it out of my mind.  Only after the ordeal was over would I reflect and realize how pointless the worrying was; except for the sense of urgency to over-prepare that it created.  And that is a routine I carry with me nearly 30 years later.  But I have found the To-Do list is helping me understand that I can only do what I can do and my objective isn’t to do everything right now in order to thwart the impending collapse of my life and destruction of Earth!  My job is to do what i can do, to the best of my ability and what happens, happens.  The List has begun to shoulder a lot of the load, which relieves me!   The reason: mental organization!

When I taught golf I talked with my students about controlling the mind through organized routine as a vital step to shooting lower scores.  You must control the mind in order to control your golf ball!  And it is funny how often I find parallels between golf and life.  It is also funny how often I forget this fact. I realize the golf-to-life parallels as epiphanies when you would think it would be a natural association, having been involved in golf for over 25 years.  But as I’m sitting here thinking this thought through, I realize that my goal setting has simply organized my mind, which in turn has disallowed my mind to run rampant with a collage of negative thoughts, which reduces my  worrying.  If you are striving to be successful it is imperative that you keep the mind in check and focused on the task at hand.  If you do not it will bombard you with thoughts of doubt, fear, confusion, etc., which is counterproductive.  

I am the epitome of “creature of habit” which usually means I am not a fan of new things.  But I have been forcing myself out of this mindset over the last few months, and in this instance, a new habit of organization was just what the doctor ordered!   Give it a try for a week and see if it helps.  As for me, this habit is here to stay! 

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21 thoughts on “To-Do Or Not To-Do, That Is the Question!

  1. One of the many nice things about retirement is that you can make a To Do list, but you can remember everything on it without referring back to it at all. Very satisfying:0)

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