Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Why we fail the to-do list"/ "Cut the crap- a leader's priority"

Jan. 7, 2017 "Why we fail the to-do list": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Ta-da! To do. Ta-da! We usually add to our daily to-do list with some internal fanfare because it’s supposedly the secret to productivity. But we are hit-and-miss on actually completing those tasks. Indeed, research by IdoneThis, which sells progress-tracking software, found that 41 per cent of todo items are never completed.

The research offered other insights on our to-do struggles. Fifty per cent of completed to-do items are done within a day. Indeed, 18 per cent are done within an hour and 10 per cent within a minute. So time is not necessarily the secret to getting them done.

Also of interest: Only 15 per cent of the things that people accomplish start as planned to-do items. That means most of what is accomplished – 85 per cent – is never even on the list.

Janet Choi, chief creative officer at the firm, sums up the finding in three sentences worth pondering since it may speak about your own life as well. People aren’t that great at completing their to-do tasks. Tasks that get completed are done quickly. Tasks that are reported as done don’t correlate with planned to-do.

Further probing found that most people put too many things on their to-do list. That just creates worry and, ironically, reduced productivity. “So the to do list gives and takes. We have so much to tackle and a to-do list helps us remember everything. At the same time, it’s a nagging tool that can induce unhealthy and disarming anxiety. Do the cons of a to-do list outweigh the pros if we’re not ultimately getting everything done?” she writes on the firm’s blog.

The source of the anxiety is less about the goal and more about the specifics of how we will proceed. So we are constructing ineffective to do lists, indicating the final outcomes rather than the next step.

We also give ourselves too much time to complete the items. Research shows the more time we give ourselves to finish something, the less likely it is that we will finish in that time frame.

Finally, the future is full of unknowns. That not only contributes to not achieving our to-do goals, but explains why so much of what we accomplish is never on the list. Life happens; we react.

The IdoneThis software originally had a to-do list but the company jettisoned it to focus on Done Lists. But she says the to-do list still can be helpful if you counter the shortcomings:

Make more specific, actionable plans: Avoid general items such as, “Write report.” Instead, list the first step, such as, “Research client history.” At the same time, she warns against micro-managing your tasks, or you’ll feel locked in and unable to make adjustments and respond to things that come up; Use a technique called “implementation intention” in your planning. Essentially, this involves if-then processes – if something happens, you will act in a certain way;

Give yourself early deadlines: Behavioural economist Dan Ariely found that even if the deadlines are self-imposed rather than by an outside authority, you are more likely to perform better than people with later deadlines.

Finally, “Record and celebrate your dones, and let that motivation push you to tackle the next day’s or week’s tasks,” she advises.

Ta da! Excerpted from Harvey Schachter’s Power Points column, which is posted to each Friday.

Mar. 3, 2017 "Cut the crap: A leader’s priority": Today I found this article by Roy Osing in the Globe and Mail:

Most leaders focus on creating a winning future for their organization; developing a strategic game plan that will beat their competitors and grow their business.

The priority is on doing something new; innovating to bring new capabilities to the organization and to attack new markets with cutting-edge technology.

The challenge is, however, that the new stuff is generally piled on the existing work portfolio and is treated as incremental to current resource commitments.

"How are we going to pay for the new strategy?" is the question that is invariably posed.

Dealing only with the new is a failure of leadership. If a new strategy development process does not deal with the crap that needs to be eliminated, that strategy could fail.

A new direction cannot be effectively pursued if elements of the old plan continue to draw resources of the organization.

There are simply not sufficient resources and bandwidth to do it all, and even if you did, the past will create inertia that will prevent you from moving to a new place.

A "cut the crap" analysis must be treated as a fundamental part of the strategy-building process and must be a vital ingredient of the new strategy's execution plan.

What current projects and activities are no longer necessary? How can they be eliminated? What resources can be made available to reallocate to new strategy from crap activities?

Create a crap list and make it long; create a keep list and make it small. The general tendency is towards the opposite, as people go to great ends to justify continuing what they are currently working on.

Make it extremely difficult to retain crap. Subject each crap item to rigorous review before deciding to keep it. Remember crap represents potential resources for getting on with new projects.

And beware of those who possess the crap.

These custodians of the past are employees who are comfortable handling past activities; they enjoy them and they don't want to change.

They are managers of irrelevance and are critical to the crap-elimination process. If they are permitted to continue to do their thing, they will infect others in the organization and prevent them from adopting the new direction.

Identify these folks and manage them either into another assignment or, if they are unwilling to accept a new role, exit them with dignity.

Designate a “cut the crap” champion for the task. Make it a senior person in the organization that has the tenacity, perseverance and currency with employees to give the job the credibility it deserves.

Charge this person to make it happen and make it a critical component of their performance and compensation plan. Review their progress regularly and communicate results to the organization.

Make it matter to everyone. When someone declares they don't have the resources to execute the new direction, ask them how much crap they have eliminated.

Leaders should be more responsible for eliminating the unproductive; crap and vision should carry the same weight.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing), former executive vice-president of Telus, is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series, Be Different or Be Dead.


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