Archive for December 19th, 2014

December 19, 2014

‘To-do lists are evil’

by Grace

Since I am a slave to my to-do lists, the first item on this list of tips to help you “be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m” made me stop and think.

  1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
  2. Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
  3. Make a plan for the entire week.
  4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
  5. Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.

Here’s more on the evil of to-do lists.

To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. Why?

It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.

Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.

Instead of making a list, schedule your tasks.

Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.

Yes, this makes sense!  But it means I would have to put more thought into my planning.  Instead of thoughtlessly listing the things I want to accomplish, I would have to think about how many hours are available that day.  It’s a little more work, but if it became a habit it would be easy.

All these tips come from “insanely productive” Cal Newport:

  1. He has a full-time job as a professor at Georgetown University, teaching classes and meeting with students.
  2. He writes six (or more) peer-reviewed academic journal papers per year.
  3. He’s the author of four books including the wonderful So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And he’s at work on a fifth.
  4. He’s married with a young child and handles all the responsibilities that come with being a husband and dad.
  5. He blogs regularly about productivity and expert performance.

And yet he finishes work at 5:30 p.m. every day and rarely works weekends.

He must be doing something right!


Eric Barker, “How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.”, The Week, September 18, 2014.

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