Nothing wrong with a thoughtful "To do" list. Everything right about it, in fact, unless your engineer-like devotion to it as such is that you stick to it no matter what—and some "must-do newbies" come along. There is a lot to say for inflexibility—and flexibility. (Go figure—management is an art.)
In any event, I want to use this space to say that "To do" lists are not enough—not nearly enough. In fact I want to urge three other daily "must" lists be added to your morning cogitations.
#2. "To be" list. If you went to a play, and someone appeared on stage and proceeded to read the play—with no acting—you'd say they missed the point of theater. Well, management of any sort is, pure and simple, theater with the acting. Who are you going to "be" this morning? How are you going to project yourself upon the scene? What is your tactical interpersonal approach to each and every one of those items on your "to do" list? A manager by definition can't do it all—or maybe can't do any of it. Hence her/his job is to "engage" others—and engagement is 100% about emotion—whereas the "to do" list is 100% engineering. So think through your "leaderhip" approach—and the unabashed "theater" you will use with each of the folks-teams you are attempting to engage re that particular "to do" item.
#3. "Relationship management/development" list. Life, including business life, is all about relationships. With allies. With doubters. With friends. With foes. Inside the organization—"above" you and "below" you. Outsiders as well as insiders. What is the extant "State of the Union" this morning? Come hell and high water, what relationships are in need of repair? What allies desperately need bucking up? Are you plugged in enough two levels "down"? Are you plugged in two levels "down" in a customer's or vendor's organization? Along with "to do" and "to be," we need a considered tactical plan to pro-actively manage our ongoing and prospective relationships.
#4. Strategic "To dos." Presumably you have some sort of more or less defined "strategic objectives" for the year (never more than three), or even for your expected 3-year tenure in your current assignment—or during the 4-month life of your project team. Amidst the hurdy gurdy of daily affairs (proceeding through the three prior lists, for example), are you visibly inching forward with your #1 or #2 priority—or are they silently lost in the shuffle? Maybe it's just a small gesture or two, but your gang should realize that in parsing any issue, that top strategic priority must be moved forward at least a millimeter or two.
You could readily argue that, even if you got up at 4AM, you'd still be constructing the lists per se at 4PM. My answer: Sure you could. Nonetheless, at some level, I'll go down swinging concerning each of these four ideas—and insist that each of the four, in a discrete and palpable fashion, must be top of mind as you navigate the day or week.
- To do—gotta get done.
- To be—how you play 'em.
- Discrete relationship management tasks.
- Activities directly or indirectly moving/nudging Strategic Priority #1/#2 forward.
Have at it!
Don't be a wimp!
(So get up at 3AM.)