‘TO-DO Lists’ – A Bane or a Boon
Written by: Zena D’souza
A long time ago, when I was in school, maybe in the 7th standard my teacher called out to me saying, ‘Come here, you monkey brain.’ I quickly looked around to ascertain how many witnesses were there and swiftly calculated how many jibes I was going to be subjected to that day. The teacher realized her error and said loudly – calling someone a monkey brain is not an insult, it’s a compliment, and all she needs is direction. Whew! Saved by the teacher 😊
She then took me aside and said ‘I have seen you trying to do multiple things at once and end up not finishing any. Going forward I want you to make a ‘To-Do List’ every day for all the activities you have planned, and I will check it periodically’. Thus started my lifetime love affair and commitment with the ‘To-Do List’. I did it initially so that the teacher would realize that I am doing her bidding. Eventually, though I started enjoying it. Planning your daily activities and checking them off just before going to bed was a different kind of high. Years passed and though a few people made fun of my lists I resolutely stuck to them. The list helped me in school, college, and even when I took up a job.
The problem came when I joined the Product Management Team (PMT) – one important aspect of the job was to think of creative campaigns, creative copies for my brands, and creative activities around my brands. Now creativity can never be a slave to time or lists. I couldn’t believe my lists had failed me, or had I failed them somehow? Some years later, when I started managing a team, I interacted with people who did not believe in lists at all and rather rubbished the idea altogether, saying lists were the reason impulsiveness, spontaneity, and creativity were dying. Many an argument ensued with people on both sides talking and eventually getting heated about what they felt was right
Does this bring us to the question asked in the title – Bane or Boon? I firmly stand by ‘Boon’- for people like me who attempt to do many things all at once the lists are a compass but creativity or spontaneity cannot be put into a list. A solution I derived for myself was to keep the list fluid – not everything was meant to be done by End of Day (EOD). Some points could take longer – Hence, finalizing a tagline for a new product could have a deadline of the End of Week (EOW) beyond which the marketing collateral would not get done in time. Also, for points like approval from superiors – I did not put a timeline as it was based on their availability but it still needed to be on my list to remind me.
I am sure all of you have wondered whether one must stick to the list made or take each day as it comes without planning it in advance. What is your stance on this?