To-Do List Nightmares

September 11, 2017

I am just wrapping up a huge project: the building of my new house. I just moved in and am getting the loose ends wrapped up. This project has taught me lessons on the importance of using a good to-do list. Not for me—I of course use one. But for the managers on the project: the general contractor and the supervisors there. All were good people and tried to manage well. But none had a good to-do list system in place and the results were frustratingly apparent. All of them, after I pointed out a small (or big) task that needed doing, kept dropping the actions. It was ridiculous how often I’d need to remind them—sometimes 5 or 6 times—before they’d get on the important ones. Sometimes it just required that they make a simple phone call. They really wanted to stay on top and would beat themselves up for not remembering the requests. But it was really sad to watch, because it is so typical of the waste in our work world.

Of course my 1MTD and MYN systems would have solved their issues, but there is that adage about how “you can lead a horse to water…”

It did lead to observations about how an effective to-do list works and why my two systems are effective. Here are some points I saw over and over again that were lacking or to blame.

  • Quick and reliable way to add items to the list. They did not have an at-hand entry method. For contractors, since they are on the move so much, it should be an app on their smartphone. (For desk jockeys it’s a good system on the computer).
  • One good single list kept at hand. These guys would write down the item in many cases, but they’d lose the current list or prioritize it wrong. Because of that they would not “see” the things that needed to get done.
  • Size matters. A list should not be huge. If it is you will give up. Keep the critical-now list at the top and under 5 or you’ll glaze over when you glance at the list for urgent next actions.

Like I said, it’s sad to watch the work world in action these days with so much wheel spinning and wasted time due to disorganization. With this house project that fact really “hit home.” A properly implemented to-do list really can solve so much of the inefficiencies in business these days.


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