One Good Thing
Improving the Work Experience at UCSF

Issue 120
To make our True North "Our People" efforts more visible at UCSF, this communication provides a highlight of one enhancement, story or tip intended to improve the work experience for clinicians and faculty at UCSF Health.
How to Get Rid of Your To Do List

Much of the chronic, insidious stress associated with life sits in the cloud of "things to do" hanging over our heads. For me, the myriad lists often float around in my head and also sit on a variety of pieces of paper and electronic to-do lists like Trello boards or the notes section on my phone....

The other weekend, while whiling away my Sunday morning scrolling social media on my phone, I came upon a video posted by a certified life coach Michelle Chestovich, MD on Physician Mom's Group on Facebook, called "How to Get Rid of Your To Do List Forever." The combination of the compelling title, my lazy morning, and my proclivity for productivity hacks overwhelmed any cynicism I had. I really needed to know how I could rid myself of these never ending lists without leaving my job!

Check out the video here.

The approach was the following:

  1. Carve out a half hour to go be by yourself with a few pieces of blank paper and a pen
  2. Write down everything you have to do (work, personal, family-everything!)
  3. Prioritize the list and decide how much time each task will take
  4. Decide if you can delegate or simply "not do" any of the things
  5. Pull out your calendar and calendar all of your clinical work and family obligations first
  6. Calendar personal time for yourself second.
  7. Then, put every item on your task list onto your calendar-some things may need to be scheduled a few weeks out if your calendar is tight and/or there are too many things
  8. After it's all on your calendar, throw away your to do list!
  9. Honor your calendar

I tried it, and I give it a 4.5/5 as a productivity tool.

What I loved:
  • Getting EVERYTHING on paper in one place and out of my head felt amazing.
  • Deciding to just not do some things! Amazing!
  • Dedicating time to do the work I have to do rather than thinking it's going to happen around the edges of what's scheduled in my calendar. Amazing!
  • I was definitely getting more done and better on top of all the things.
  • My calendar couldn't get filled with just meetings because I was prioritizing time to do the work I needed to do in addition.
  • Throwing away the crossed off to-do list after it was all calendared felt liberating!
  • Organizing this way on Sundays before the work week starts helps Mondays feel WAY better.

What I learned:
  • Being super aware of and on top of all the things to do is hard. Blissful ignorance feels a little more relaxing!
  • It's important to schedule this half hour exercise each week to keep on top of new and unfinished business and to assess the schedule for each upcoming week.
  • Scheduling breaks and personal/reflective/creative/relationship building time is necessary as part of the "to do's". It's too much to go morning till night taking care of the tasks, and I was not happy doing that.
  • Scheduling space in your calendar for the surprises/fires that you have to deal with every day is important. They come up every day.
  • Adhering to the calendar becomes very important with this method.
  • Keeping an overflow list for anything I didn't actually finish or new work that arose allowed me to keep organized and reset the following week.

So in the end, at least for me, this didn't 100% get rid of my lists "forever," as the coach suggested. It did make my list MUCH smaller and more manageable and gave me the feeling of being in control of my work rather than allowing it to control me.

I hope it helps you too!
Have a happy and healthy weekend!