For instant perspective, tag your tasks with wants and musts

Posted by in Productivity

For instant perspective, tag your tasks with wants and musts

It’s the ultimate goal: converting ones life into a series of days containing only to-dos that we really do want to do – and yet, nearly anyone checks to see how far they’ve progressed. Here’s the quickest way you’ll ever find to see how you’re doing – and get a dose of instant perspective at the same time.


When you get up in the morning, what does your day look like? Is it chock-a-block with dreary tasks that sour your mood from the moment you get out of bed? Or, perhaps more unlikely, is it an endless roller-coaster ride of titillating to-dos that you simply can’t wait to get started on? If you’re anything like most people, you’re probably somewhere in between – and since you’re reading this, you are more than likely to be interested in achieving the latter state. In fact, you may already have had some success in getting there.


But just how much success have you had?


There’s one way to find out. Sure, you’ve been checking off tasks like a maniac, staying productive and being efficient. You’ve delivered on project after project. Those are measurable deliverables, but being productive isn’t necessarily equal to being successful. You could, in fact, be working on all the wrong things instead of focusing on those that get you where you want. And this time around, I’m not talking about the value of working with high-impact tasks as a means towards creating progress, either.


I’m talking about whether you’re succeeding in doing more of what you want, and less of what you must.


The great divide


Here’s what you do: grab your to-do list, and start marking every single task with whether it’s something that you want to do, or something that you must do. I realize that this is open to some interpretation, but that’s besides the point: what you’re doing is making yourself acutely aware of if what you’re doing day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute is what you want to be doing. Think of musts as tasks that are being demanded of you, whereas wants are the things that spring from your own mind and which you look forward to.


Are you done yet? Good. Now, tally the count. Don’t mind if it takes a bit of time – it’s worth it. Perhaps you’ll make a few corrections in the process, but don’t fall for the temptation to delude yourself into changing what your gut feeling told you in the first round. Chances are your gut has a better idea than your conscious self about the status quo of matters.


What’s your split?


Mine is approximately 40/60 want/must at the last count. I consider this to be quite healthy, given that I include just about every single thing which I must act upon in the personal and professional aspects of my life. Perhaps yours is different. Perhaps you only track professional matters. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to remember two things: unless you’re a multi-millionaire, there will always be a great deal of things you must do. And, because of this little exercise, you should now have a far better idea of the gritty nature of your day-to-day grind.


Now, the question is: are you happy with your split?


If not, you’d better start cutting down on the musts.