AV Police Squad

Superman’s Pocket Planner Must Be Bulletproof

I like to think I have a lot in common with Superman. I’m devilishly handsome. I enjoy moonlighting in tights and a cape. Many of my close friends think I’m from a different planet. The similarities are uncanny!

Another thing I have in common with the Man of Steel is we both have a Fortress of Solitude. Since I can’t fly to the Arctic in the blink of an eye, my Fortress of Solitude is not made of ice, nor does it have memorial statues of Jor-El and Lara, but I can’t start my day without a visit. I just need to take ten minutes each morning to plan what I have to get done that day. If I’m being honest, perhaps “fortress” is too strong a word. It’s more a Cone of Silence (for my Dune fans!) where I put all my devices on Do Not Disturb and physically write out my Daily Task List on actual paper. And then I get after it.

There are several reasons I do this:

  1. Creating a daily task list frees my mind from having to remember things I’m supposed to do. With the amount of time I spend staring at the open refrigerator trying to remember why I came into the kitchen in the first place, I really need to rely on lists to keep track of things. Especially while I’m at work, where interruptions can get you sidetracked faster than green grass through a goose. I can see what I need to get done over the course of the day, and by having it staring me in the face, it provides the right mix of motivation and discipline to get things done.
  2. It allows me to prioritize my tasks. This is the key to making task lists effective. Tasks should be categorized on their importance as well as their urgency. As things come flying across your desk, it is easy to get caught up with the urgent stuff because people are screaming for it, but not all urgent stuff is important. As you are putting out fires, you may let some non-urgent, but very important, tasks get moved to the back burner with disastrous consequences. This kills productivity. When something new comes up, I add it to the list and determine its priority. Urgent AND important things get done first. However, important but non-urgent tasks should get done before urgent but non-important items. This is difficult to keep track of without that daily list.
  3. There is more motivation to get things done when you have to write the same task on the list day after day because it didn’t get completed. The software products just automatically carry it over. With a written task list, you must write it down again…and again…every day…until it gets done. It is infuriating! But that frustration motivates you to completing that task more than it just turning red on your screen when it’s past due.
  4. Putting pen to paper causes more of a relationship between me and my tasks, despite the raised eyebrows I get from my colleagues for carrying my planner binder with me everywhere I go (“Paper?! What is this…the 1800’s?!”). Because writing is slower than typing, my mind begins to attack the task as I’m writing it. If it were just copied and pasted into Outlook, I would not have the same bond with it. It stays at the top of my mind when I write it down.
  5. Check marks rock! It is so much more satisfying to make that check mark with my favorite pen than just clicking a box in the computer. The satisfaction is amplified even more if it was one of those annoying tasks that took all week to complete.

As you can see from this list, a daily task list that is created every day, consistently, will prevent you from dropping tasks.  Writing it down in the same book/binder/whatever adds an emotional link between you and your tasks, so not only do you keep track of things, but you’re more likely to get them done. As similar as we, AV people, are to Superman, there is one big difference. He only has to face one threat at a time. Sure, every now and again, he’s got to take care of both Lex Luthor and General Zod at the same time, but that’s nothing compared to keeping several AV clients happy. Having a disciplined, prioritized daily task routine is another way to separate professionals from practitioners.

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