To DOTo Do lists don’t get things done; people do. I have always maintained that To Do lists are unreliable if you’re expecting them to get things done. They are reminders, but little else.
There is a LinkedIn survey of over 6000 global professionals that found that only 11% actually accomplished all the tasks on their “To Do” lists. Mentioned in the June 15, 2012 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail, the survey cited e-mail, impromptu meetings and phone calls as major distractions that prevented people from working on their To Do lists.
The real issue here is the fact that 40% of the respondents admitted that they are easily distracted. This has always been the case to some extent; but with technology allowing uninterrupted interruptions and 24/7 connectivity coupled with an expanding workday, the problem has been magnified a hundredfold.
Our brains are being required to accept interruptions as they occur, and my usual recommendations of scheduling important items from your To Do list into your planner, scheduling times for e-mail, adopting focus hours, and working in 90-minute segments, although providing more commitment, are no longer sufficient to ensure maximum effectiveness in the use of time.
We must accept the fact that the battlefield has changed from our workstations to our minds. We must understand how our brain reacts to the new stimulants received from the digital environment, how neuroplasticity effects our reactions, and how we can regain control of our time by regaining control of our brain.
Our greatest asset in getting things done consists of our executive skills, those brain-based skills that help us to focus, sustain attention, ignore distractions, and stick to the task at hand. Ways of strengthening these skills are included in my new publication, A brain’s-eye view of time management, available soon.