It can feel daunting when you’re staring down a huge To Do list, but there is a strategy that can help you be more productive, and feel success and progress in the midst of that heavy workload. Let’s look at two ways people tend to approach the To Do list.  Does one resemble you?

The Busy Bee

When attacking a big task list, do you model your work methods after the Busy Bee?  The bee moves from flower to flower gathering pollen until her legs are heavy with it. She expends a lot of energy gathering that pollen, and incurs a lot of travel time on the way to find and retrieve it.

The Busy Bee in the workplace goes after the task list in a similar way. She moves from one task to another, not finishing anything, but making some progress on everything. By the end of the day she feels like she has expended a lot of energy, but her list is no shorter. She feels frustrated that she is not making progress, and she might even be receiving some negative performance feedback from a boss who isn’t noticing progress either.

The Focused BeaverAmerican_Beaver,_tree_cutting

The beaver has a target – that tree right there. It’s in the middle of the woods not far from the stream, and there could be a multitude of choices for the beaver to select for building material. But no tree is any good to the beaver until it comes down. The focused beaver chews and chews and chews away on the selected tree until it comes down. Then the beaver moves along to another tree.

This beaver is going to have to take down more than one tree to make its dam. But each tree has to come down all the way if it is to be of any use. The Focused Beaver in the workplace chooses a task and works on it until it is complete. She checks it off of her To Do list, and may even submit her work product to another party for them to review or use. Then she moves to the next task, and the next, completing each before moving on to something else.

Bee or Beaver?

It would be unrealistic to propose that all tasks can be completed in one sitting. Interruptions happen, re-prioritizations happen. But satisfaction and motivation, and sometimes external rewards come from the task being done. That check or cross-out on the To Do list regenerates the energy needed to do the next thing on the list. Might you have an opportunity to make like a beaver at work, and stick with that task until you have something to show for it? Being busy is not the same as generating results. And achieving results is what being a leader is all about.