The Tyranny of the Task List

This post is by Clint Watson,  former artwork gallery operator/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should really abide by Clint on Twitter listed here or indication up for his newsletter listed here.







I recently surprised myself by acknowledging that I have an internal wariness of the to-do list.  

This revelation would most likely shock anyone who appreciates how I work. In actuality, I use tasks lists all the time.  Most times I start off by listing the issues I want to attain on a listing.  And, for the duration of the day I carry on to examine goods off the list.

Task Lists are Successful

Lately I took it even more.  One working day, I figured I had about seven focused several hours to do the job.  I calculated, primarily based upon my duties, that I could full roughly 3 tasks per hour.  So I listed the 21 (7 hrs x 3 for each hour)  items I wanted to execute that working day.  I then took seven submit-it notes and wrote a few duties on just about every note and assigned each individual take note an hour of the working day (be aware 1 was 8:00 am – 9:00 am, observe 2 was 9:00 am – 10:00 am, notice 3 was 10:00 am – 11:00 am, and so forth).  At 8:00 am I place the initial sticky notice on the facet of my laptop monitor and place all the other lists and notes out of sight so that I could be consistently reminded in the course of the hour only of my 3 most crucial responsibilities.  I was afterwards instructed that I had unwittingly “reinvented” one thing called scrum.

This method of working was extremely successful and kept me “on activity” all day extended.  I finished all 21 duties by 3:00 pm (which was wonderful since it was a Friday).  What a big sensation of accomplishment!  We all get a small hurry from checking matters off a record [1].  So, I  was capable to take pleasure in our standing Friday evening “wine tasting” realizing I experienced completed “almost everything I experienced to do.”  Over the subsequent couple times, I used my “scrummy” method several a lot more moments, with similarly successful benefits.  

“Play” Will allow Terrific Ideas to Surface area

A few times throughout those scrummy times I experienced ideas of new, intriguing concepts that I could possibly like to explore pop into my head.  Software characteristics.  Articles for this weblog.  You title it.  But due to the fact I was on-activity and unwilling to drop every little thing [2], I pushed these suggestions to the again burner and stayed focused on completing all my tasks.  You know, “prepare your do the job and operate your program”.  After a few times, I had “caught up” to the issue that I decided to be a little bit a lot more peaceful and just “enjoy.”  

For the duration of my “engage in day”, I banged out code like a mad-person.  The tips flowed (thankfully).  I launched prototypes of a lot of new strategies and options (including the editor that I’m making use of to write this report).  The factor with creative strategies is that you can’t normally just “help save them up” – concepts beget other, at times much better, tips.  I uncover that the most effective ideas I have ordinarily happen when I’m doing work on other suggestions or at least thinking about the strategies that I am now performing on.  At the close of my “perform day”, I experienced a list of undone jobs but, over-all, I had achieved so several more crucial issues.  Looking at the “massive plan of matters”,  I would have to confess I was extra effective on the “perform working day” than on the “scrum day” if we are defining productiveness as doing great function that matters.

This is when I had my revelation about to-do lists.  

Job Lists are Constraining

To-do lists are constraints.  They are chains
.  Now, constraints are not generally a undesirable point.  Sometimes we require constraints to achieve constructive results.  If you’ve got bought a plane to capture, it’s likely not the finest time to start a new operate of artwork and attempt to get into the “zone”. Constraints are necessary.  But we have to have to recall that constraints are, perfectly, constraining.  And which is not a fantastic issue in innovative do the job.   

So I assume we need to have to build a healthier regard for the task checklist and the threat it can existing.  I propose approaching the activity record the way the outdated govt “food pyramid” approached sweets:  use sparingly.  Use them to preserve you on activity when you have to, but be ready to just take the chains off when inspiration strikes so you can do some operate that actually issues.

What do you imagine?


Clint Watson
BoldBrush/FASO Founder and Art Fanatic


[1]  I believe “minor rush from examining items off a list” can signify a type of habit, which I plan to focus on in an upcoming post.

[2]  I also believe the capability to drop anything and pursue artistic thoughts is underrated.  People must do it a lot more frequently.





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