Put Your 'To-Do' List on a Diet
Put Your 'To-Do' List on a Diet

Avid gardeners know from experience that accelerating the growth of a tree…requires pruning it. To make it grow bigger, you have to cut it back.

That counterintuitive principle also applies to professionals.  If we want remarkable business growth, we need the courage to prune things back, our schedules, our projects, and our commitments. We must be willing to drop our dependency on some of the things we’ve always done, even if they’ve been wildly successful in the past.

Modern thinkers have adopted this unconventional approach by applying the prune-to-grow logic across the full spectrum of their tasks. Basically, they take everything they do off auto-pilot. They question its value. And if it’s not worthy of their time and attention, they let it go.

Here are several ways you can incorporate this idea to improve your own effectiveness:

First, start with your to-do list and calendar.

It’s easy to become a slave to your schedule if you automatically sanction everything you agreed to do last week, last month or last year. The staff meeting every Monday. Sales reviews on Wednesdays. The think tank sessions every month. They keep piling up.

If you just continue following the same patterns and mindlessly accepting the same meetings, it’s virtually impossible to carve out the time and mental space needed to be more strategic, to think creatively and to engage in long-term planning.

You become stuck on a never-ending treadmill of doing the same things over and over, without taking the time to determine if they still add value.

Second, think about what you do on a broader scale.

The product you developed may have helped you make your mark at the company. The initiative you led that was pivotal in your last promotion. All those pet projects that you took under your wing and made them successful.

Ask yourself, have any of those run their course and are now just sucking up time and resources?

That a tough one, right? We develop strong attachments to the projects we own. We’re personally invested. The idea of cutting one of those is uncomfortable.

But if you’re hanging on to these major projects just because you launched them, you may have lost your objectivity about what’s best for the business. And that can take a serious toll on your performance and productivity.

Third, get clarity about what really matters.

Before you commit to any action, filter it through these questions: 

  • Does this align with and support my team’s objectives?
  • Will it help move me or my team forward?
  • Is this report/meeting/project still valued or of use to its original requestors?

If you can’t answer “yes,” those tasks haven’t earned the right to be part of your schedule. Let them go.

So many of us become inadvertently chained to doing work that no longer adds value. To break out of that rut, embrace the counterintuitive, prune-to-grow logic.

When you narrow your focus, you’ll expand your impact. And when you demolish your dependence on what you’ve always done, you’ll achieve more by doing less.