I always love chatting with Anne Bogel (host of the podcast What Should I Read Next?) As her books empire has grown, she has found herself managing a sizable, all-virtual team. So I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed for The New Corner Office (my ebook on how successful people work from home).
In describing how she managed her days, she used the image of a Ferris Wheel. At any given time, she noted, she has a small number of projects that she is focusing on. These are the top of the Ferris Wheel. Then the wheel spins and she moves on to other projects. Eventually, she can focus on everything in turn.
When she mentioned this in our interview, I had a real “a-ha!” moment. When people ask me about to-do lists, I always emphasize the virtue of brevity. A 30-item daily to-do list is kind of silly. You won’t get to all these things, and there’s no virtue in putting something on a to-do list and then not doing it. It’s just as not done as if it was never on the list in the first place, only now you feel bad! Better to make a short list (ideally 3-5 things) that can become a contract with yourself. You will do these things whatever the day dishes up. You will then end the day feeling accomplished.
It makes sense, but I know that people struggle with this — probably because most of us have more than 3-5 things going on in our lives. The Ferris Wheel analogy solves this problem. Of course we all have more than that going on! But you focus on a few things at a time, and keep the wheel spinning. If you tried to put everything on the top of the Ferris Wheel at once, well, no one wants to go on that ride.
How do you make your to-do lists?