Most people make a to-do list that are ten items long and believe everything on it, is essential. The problem with overloading your to-do list for the day is, it creates a sense of failure when everything doesn’t get completed. That feeling of inadequacy has a ripple effect. It causes people to stay at the office longer and work even once their home with family. It also explains why 62% of professionals identified themselves as desktop diner’s. They don’t feel like they’ve “earned” the ability to walk away from the work because they haven’t gotten enough done. I call this phenomenon – the work guilt effect.
There is a technique that will hack that never-ending to-do list, eliminate the work guilt effect and better manage your time – anchoring the day. Here’s how it works:
Anchoring the day is the process of first looking at the actual time you have available. If you’re going to be in meetings for four hours of a nine-hour workday, then you’ll only create to-dos based on the time available, five hours.
Planning the Day
Let’s say your work is mostly done on the computer. Based on the example above you have five ‘real’ hours that you can execute projects. Now that you’re clear on the time that’s available you can create your to-do list either using an hour by hour format or a how long will each task take format. Here’s what that looks like:
How long it will take format Hour by Hour format
Managing the List
I know what your thinking – “I’m still not getting enough done.” That only leaves me with accomplishing a few items. Yes, it’s true. Based on the time you have available you may be getting less done but that’ what was happening anyway. The big difference is that you’re now creating a realistic expectation of what can be accomplished. It also creates the freedom to make different decisions.
If you have four hours of meetings scheduled preventing you from accomplishing more, something needs to give. Change the meetings to take place at your office versus theirs to cut out travel time, try making it a phone meeting or completely reschedule for a later date. The beauty of using the anchoring the day technique is you get one hundred percent clear on how much time is available and you prioritize based on what you absolutely need to get done. If you have no ideas what your priorities are, that’s a completely different hack for another day.
Practicing the technique
As you practice the anchoring technique daily for at least 3 weeks you’ll see big results. You start to be more effective at your work, have personal time for other things you care about and most importantly you’ll be able to tame the work monster inside and let go of the associated guilt. You’ll also develop stronger ability to prioritize and say no to things that might be important but aren’t important for today’s to-do list. When you become a master at anchoring the day based on the time you have available, the to-dos will consistently get checked done, making everyday a win.