The price we pay for the things we succeed in doing is the things we leave undone.
I came across John Perry’s hilarious article Structured Procrastination the other day. It is in the finest tradition of humour which tells more truth than the serious articles. Another great exemplar in the time management field is J. Northcote Parkinson’s Parkinson’s Law.
Reading John Perry’s article cast light on something which had puzzled me for years. To describe what it is I have to go back to the first time management system I ever invented - something like twelve years ago. This was a form of open-ended To Do list. Unlike the standard advice about To Do lists I made no attempt to order it or prioritise it. Nor was I particularly careful about what I put into the list. Anything which occurred to me or crossed my mind went into the list. So the result would be a long list which contained everything I could think of. And as I thought of new stuff all the time, the list would grow rapidly.
Since the list was not prioritised in any way, my method of working the list was to go through it continually from one end to the other. Whenever an item “stood out” to me I would do it. Any recurrent items like “Email” would be re-entered at the end of the list once completed.
This type of To Do list was extremely efficient for getting a lot done. However the disadvantage was that a lot of items didn’t get done. Some items would stay on the list for weeks.
What I realised after reading John Perry’s article was that the items which don’t get done provide the motive power for what does get done. In other words the price we pay for the things we succeed in doing is the things we leave undone.