“I tell you what, how about I take you out for a MacDonald’s milkshake this week!”“Oh, yes, Daddy. When?” “This week sometime.” “But when this week?” “OK, how about Thursday?” “But when on Thursday?” “Eh, 4pm?” “Great! Thanks Daddy.” We’ve all had similar conversations, haven’t we. Kids sure know how to schedule their “to-do’s.” When Peter Bregman’s wife told him a similar story, it transformed the way he managed his to-do list. Every evening, he would go through the same Q&A with his wife: “O, Hi honey! How did your day go?” “Well, I got a lot done, I suppose, but not as much as I would have liked.” [Sound familiar?] One day she gently suggested that maybe, just maybe, he was being unrealistic in his expectations. She was right, of course. His to-do list had become so long that it had become more like an I’m-never-going-to-get-to-it list. The solution? A child’s question: “When tomorrow?” In it, Bregman found a formula for turning an intention into an action. He calls it “the power of when and where.” He says: “Decide when and where you will do something, and the likelihood that you’ll follow through increases dramatically.” He expounds further:
So, once you’ve got your list of things to do, take your calendar, and decide when and where you are going to do your to-do’s. Schedule each to-do into a time slot, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. That will make it most likely that you’ll accomplish what you need to and feel good at the end of the day. Since your entire to-do list will not fit into your calendar — and I can assure you that it won’t — you need to prioritize your list for that day. What is it that really needs to get done today? What important items have you been ignoring? Where can you slot those things into your schedule? Then, once you schedule an item, cross it off your list.
“When tomorrow” turns “I’m-never-going-to-get-to-it” lists into “to-done” lists.