Time Management Part 3: The Short List

It was a hot Saturday afternoon and I was feeling good. One by one I was proudly checking off the long list of household to-do items on the whiteboard in the front hallway. With each checkmark, I would stand back and admire my excellent time management skills based on the progress I was making. Later that day when I came back into the house to check off yet another heroic accomplishment, I stopped in dismay. Someone had erased all of the finished tasks which had checkmarks, only leaving the unfinished ones. I suddenly only had evidence of what I had yet to do, with no proof of my accomplishment to-date

If you are like me, this is how it can feel at work most days. Somewhere between the flood of emails, instant message requests from the boss and meetings as far as the eye can see, we have “real” work to accomplish. There was a time when the multiple streams of work and distractions stressed me out as I watched my day slip by without any tangible progress against deliverables. Not anymore! The answer to time management problems at work is The Short List.

This is how it works. The minute you sit down at your desk each morning, make a list (preferably in red) of the three non-negotiable deliverables that need to get done before you leave work today.  By the way, these should not be softball tasks that would get accomplished anyway in the course of the day, these should be real deliverables. Then, every time you switch from one activity to the next (exit a meeting or finish an email, etc.), review The Short List and look for an opportunity to attack these deliverables. If you happen to miss a key deliverable on a given day, start the next day’s list with that item or eliminate it altogether if it is no longer a priority. Here is an example of what that might look like.

The Short List

  1. Plan the team offsite
  2. Finish/submit Q4 budget forecast
  3. Recognize John Doe for his outstanding contribution

This may not look like much but if you complete the shortlist each day, that is 15 completed deliverables per week. How many key deliverables are you accomplishing now with your current time management approach? We often say we need more hours in the day. The way to have more hours in the day is to have a better time management plan. It’s called The Short List!


Here are links to related resources you might find useful. If you find your life is out of balance, take action today to change that about yourself. I heard it once said, the time is going to pass whether or not you act. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time becoming the person you aspire to be?

Part 1: Daily Routines
Daily Commute
Part 2: Love Your Commute
Start Your Online Business

P.S. Remember, business success rarely surprises those who achieve it, they show up every day expecting it!

62 Replies to “Time Management Part 3: The Short List”

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