Stop making to-do lists! Reclaim control of your time and purpose with a why-do list.

What is on your to-do list? Do you have more than one? Is your email inbox another? Perhaps your plan for the day is a bit like this…

Call John Doe. Send proposal to prospect. Draft e-book. Fix system bug. Meet with boss. Meet with friend. Lunch with spouse. Buy birthday gift. Mow lawn. Design sales presentation. Send email newsletter to customers. Make dinner. Fix cabinet. Schedule coffee with new lead. Compile inventory report. Ship order. Complete annual employee review. Workout. Attend kids’ school event.

You probably have a million and one things to do, right?! But, do you know why each to-do matters? Does each have a benefit that adds value to the purpose of your life and/or the lives of others?

Instead, make a why-do list. With each to-do, include its value. Identify its meaning, its reason for why you will trade some of your most precious possession, your time, for the completion of that to-do. Why does the to-do exist? Why does it need to be done? Who will it benefit? Get personal and give it as much an emotional connection to a larger mission as possible.

It is easy to be so busy with your to-dos that without thinking you pile on more and more. Some you originate. Some are requests and demands from others. Regardless of the source, the list grows and the dangerous implications of each new addition increases. Each will steal away minutes, even hours, of your life. You have no idea how much time you have in this world. You can’t make or earn more. You can’t get any of it back.

You start each day with a slate of empty checkboxes. And, you end the day exhausted, hoping you checked off at least half the items for completion, yet remain discouraged by how many are still left. Some tasks are requirements. You must pay your taxes. You must have clean clothes to wear. You need to fulfill your boss’ requests and your customers’ orders. But, most to-dos are not mandatory, and we add them because they seem reasonable. To handle the volume, you can prioritize, put to-dos in different categories, and even track time. The quantity of tasks to be done is not necessarily the cause of an exasperated day. The issue is when we are not mindful of the purpose of each to-do when considering it’s addition to the list and ensuring alignment with our life’s purpose.

When you construct a why-do list, you will make a much judgment as to the value of a task. It will be much easier to decide what gets added and which to-dos do not make the cut. You will better value your time and that of others to ensure you pursue priorities. And, you will find yourself spending less time on those to-dos that need to get done, but do not need any more than a minimal effort to knock out. Most importantly, as you tackle each to-do, you will be reminded as to why you added it, you will reassess whether to pursue and if you do proceed, you will do so with greater intention to realize the value of completing the task.

Below is the same to-do list from the beginning of the post, now rewritten as a why-do list. It is longer, but notice the considerable value of each to-do. Taking a few quick seconds to add the benefit of each item helps prioritize the to-do, and informs your mindset when addressing each.

Call John Doe to see how his dad’s surgery went and if he needs help with work.

Send proposal for helping prospect to increase their customer satisfaction ratings 15%, reduce employee turnover 7%, and increase sales 33%.

Draft 10-page e-book that educates customers on getting the most value from our product.

Fix system bug so customers are no longer frustrated when communications report fails to run and they lose time trying to figure out the problem.

Meet with boss to determine three new strategies to improve our team’s support response time and better internal user satisfaction.

Meet with friend to see how I might help them get a new job at XYZ company.

Have lunch with spouse so we have an uninterrupted hour to catch up and start planning our next vacation.

Buy birthday gift for my mom as she is so wonderful and loving.

Mow lawn as I have invested time and money in its care and enjoy a nice looking house to come home to.

Design sales presentation to better illustrate our value proposition to prospects so that it is easier to understand, requiring less reading and time to present.

Convey our appreciation for our customers with thanks, helpful tips, and a savings discount by sending them an email newsletter.

Make dinner for my family as my spouse will be tired from working late and so our family has reason to pause from our busyness and chat about our trip.

Fix cabinet doors as the old hinges are digging in to the wood and will become a worse problem.

Take time and show genuine care for the challenges of a new lead has in their organization by scheduling coffee with them.

Compile inventory report as we want to make sure we do not run out of product that our customers are expecting us to have when they need it.

Ship order because a customer has parted with their hard-earned dollars to add value to their efforts by choosing our product over competing options.

Complete annual employee review so that the employee and I are in agreement as to how we are to continue thriving as individuals and as a company.

Workout to fight off illnesses, relax my mind, be more productive, relieve stress, and strive for a longer, healthier life to enjoy with my family and friends.

Attend kids’ school event as it is vital for kids to know how important they are.

Your challenge: Work with a why-do list instead of a to-do list for a week. See what difference it makes and share here for the benefit of others.

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