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« Thoughts on the Long List - Making Everything Easy | Main | Thoughts on the Long List - The Panic List »

Thoughts on the Long List - Accepting that it won't all get done

Well, I am back where I began twenty years ago with Simple Scanning. The difference is that I have an entirely different philosophy about it - a philosophy which I will attempt to describe in this and subsequent posts.

As I said in an earlier article, there are two ways of looking at a long “catch-all” list.

The first is that you capture everything on your list which you have to do and then use a system to get all of it done. This is what I was trying to do with it all those years ago. And of course I failed.

The second is that you capture everything that you might do on your list and then use a system to sift the list so that the viable things on it get done, and the rest are sifted out. If there is a lot which you don’t do then you have succeeded.

The basic difference between the two is that with the first what you haven’t done is seen as more important than what you have done. In the second what you have done is seen as more important than what you haven’t done.

With the first, if you didn’t succeed in doing something then you would see the possible causes as: 

  • You experienced strong resistance
  • You couldn’t get yourself in the right mood to do it
  • You didn’t want to do it
  • You kept putting it off
  • You found it really hard
  • You thought it would be a lot of work
  • You weren’t sure how to handle it
  • You just couldn’t get started
  • You did a load of trivial make-work in order to avoid it 

With the second, the reasons would be entirely different 

  • I chose not to do it
  • It didn’t feel right for me at this time
  • I decided it would interfere with my existing work
  • I tried it but it didn’t work for me
  • I found a better way of doing the same thing 

In other words the reasons for the second put you in a positive, not a negative, light. It’s the task which didn’t pass your selection, rather than you who failed to get the task done.

What are the advantages of seeing the list in this way?

I’ll answer that question in a later post in the series. 

Reader Comments (5)

Fascinating! You seem to redefine the to-do list as an opportunities-for-growth list.

Can't wait to read the next posts. Thank you!
October 6, 2017 at 13:03 | Unregistered CommenterLaby
Yes! Recognizing that there are two types of lists was a big step for me.

I have ADHD. I need the catch-all list. If I don't capture it, it will hang around in my brain until I do, not letting me do anything else. But, not all things on the list are equally important.

For me, the dangerous time is when I start to pull ahead. I get too optimistic, and start re-activating less-important projects, then do too much on them, fall behind on important things, and burn out. Moving things to a hibernation list is critical for me.
October 6, 2017 at 16:29 | Registered CommenterCricket
I used catch-all list a lot. Probably, from year 2014 until this September.
Now I switched from list to No-list system. I was afraid that I will forget some important things if I don’t have them written. But I what I found is that if something is really important, it will show up again and again and I will get it done.

The main problem with list I thing lays in different space. I found that I have not achieved anything significant as I wanted. Yes, I did a lot. And list helped me and I was on top of everything some days. But after years, I still where I was. I have not made my business successful and it doesn’t matter if I did a lot small tasks or not. I have not done what was really important.

What I’m trying to do now is get rid from everything that is not works for business promotion. And I have found that I don’t need a huge list for few things that really matters. And everything else just don’t matter a lot.

Thank you for your great work, Mark.
October 10, 2017 at 12:01 | Unregistered CommenterDmitry P.
excellent! this reminds me of the way in which the late Umberto Eco viewed his library of unread books:
October 31, 2017 at 6:10 | Unregistered Commenterteckwyn

As I read your comment I thought "I'm sure Taleb said something about that" - and then I looked at your link and it was right there!
October 31, 2017 at 14:30 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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