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The Blog

What Do You REALLY Need to Do?

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The never-ending to-do list.  

It’s a common fixture in the lives of most folks. These lists abound in both personal and professional worlds. And, they’re a source of much anxiety -- for everyone. 

In an effort to help you overcome the looming pressure of your own to-do list, I want to offer a clear distinction. When you look at your particular list, what items are actually your responsibility? Asked another way, can you separate the things that you are responsible to ensure are completed, versus the things that you yourself need to complete? If you’re like many people, you may not be all that clear. And unless you’re clear, it’s very likely that your particular list actually has items on it that aren’t your responsibility at all. 

Here’s an example, taken from the supervisory realm -- the issue of timesheets and payday (because everybody loves payday). Supervisors are often responsible to ensure that timesheets are submitted to payroll by a specific deadline each week. It would be really easy to extrapolate this responsibility and believe that supervisors need to COMPLETE and submit the timesheets. Truthfully? This likely isn’t the case. The completion of the timesheets in most organizations is the responsibility of the individual staff in question. In other words, supervisory responsibility is to receive completed timesheets from staff, and then make sure completed timesheets are submitted on time. If a staff member doesn’t complete their timesheet? That’s on them, not the supervisor.  

I know, I know. If someone doesn’t complete their timesheet, and you don’t do it for them, they won’t get paid. And that could create an unmanageable situation for them. And sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. I get it. And you ultimately get to decide how you want to handle exceptions that are extenuating. Just remember this: poor planning on someone else’s part does not create an emergency for you. This isn’t about being cold or heartless; there are certainly times when it is appropriate to help someone out. However, taking on another person’s responsibilities regularly isn’t helping them; its enabling them (and burdening you). 

Having said all of that, let me ask: when you take a look at your own to-do list, what are you taking responsibility for that isn’t yours? Where are you adding pressure to your day, where you don’t need to? How are you holding on to tasks that should be held by others? Whatever your answers to these questions, releasing those things and only allowing items on your list for which you are truly responsible will help to alleviate the stress and burden that you might otherwise be feeling. 

Here’s another something to bear in mind: you teach others how to treat you. I say this because if you regularly take responsibility for things that aren’t yours to hold, folks are going to let you do that. And over time, things that aren’t actually your responsibility will FEEL like they are. So get clear; claw back your time; reclaim your responsibilities and hand back the things that aren’t.  

Bottom-line: as much as you might be someone who likes to help others out, you don’t do anyone any favours when you hold responsibility that isn’t yours to hold -- least of all yourself. So, get clear on what you’re actually responsible for and focus on getting those things done. Clarity about your own responsibilities will help alleviate the overwhelm of those seemingly endless to-do-lists.