Why some to-dos are not crossed off your list

You have to clean your office, the garage or the basement.

You wanted to repaint the reception, redecorate the waiting room or reorganize the cabinets in the treatment room.

Why hasn’t it happened yet?

Why are they still on your to-do list?

Is it because you’re a procrastinator?

Not necessarily.

It may be because these are not to-dos.

They are projects, or at least mini-projects.

You can’t simply “paint a room.”

This project requires several to-dos:

  • picking a color.
  • driving to the store.
  • buying paint.
  • buying paint brushes and masking tape and other required supplies.

You can’t just “clean your office.”

This is a project, that requires several steps:

  • clean one drawer.
  • reorganize your desk.
  • straighten up a shelf.

So it turns out, you may not be a procrastinator.

We think we have a goal, but it’s the wrong goal. So we copy that task from to-do list to to-do list.

For days, or weeks, or months.

Yet the to-do is not a to-do.

This is a common pitfall.

It’s a project, or at least a mini-project.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is the “Next Action” concept.

Created by David Allen, best-selling author of Getting Things Done, a Next Action is “The next physical, visible activity that progresses something toward completion.”

For every project, ask yourself: “What’s my Next Action to get this project started?”
If you need to clean the garage, your next action might be to find 3 boxes and label them “keep,” “donate” and “throw away.”

If you decide to send Christmas cards to your 10 favorite clients, your next action is to buy Christmas cards and stamps.

If you want to reorganize the cabinets in the treatment room, your first step may be to sit down and decide what would improve workflow and which items to get rid of.

Look at your to-do list critically and decide whether Next Actions might help you get closer to achieving your goals.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free certified
Co-Founder of Chronos LLC