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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

To do or not to do, that is the question



What do you do before you go to sleep in the night or right after you wake up in the morning? If you're like me (and I think I'm like most people), then you'll make yourself a to-do list. A list of things that you want to get done by the end of the end before you come back to making another list for the next day. And so on.

This is very effective. It helps organise the tasks during the day. It helps plan out how much time to spend on each task during the day. Every night, I go to sleep after making the list, thinking that I will get through the whole list the next day.

And how many ticks does it have at the end of the next day? Thirty percent? Fifty percent? Seventy percent? Hundred percent? Well, it's never a hundred percent (not never never, maybe ten days a year, give or take). It usually ranges in the spectrum of fifty to eighty percent with outliers like zero percent and hundred percent.

Why? Such careful planning, such dedication to see the plan through, and yet only sixty five percent on average? That doesn't make sense! Something must be going wrong here, you think. That's what I thought too. And no doubt, something was indeed going wrong.

At first, I thought, I was piling on too many tasks on the to-do list for the day and I began to reduce the number. But the average completion rate continued to hover around sixty five percent. Then, I thought that I'm not planning for changes during the day and incoming requests and spillovers that take up time. I included buffers in my time. Maybe there was a little bit of improvement, say from sixty five percent to seventy percent. Or even seventy five percent. But the hundred percent seemed ever elusive.

Then one day, I flipped the list. Rather, I had a second list to accompany the first. What, another list? Are you stupid? You couldn't complete the first one and you're making a second one? Are you crazy?

Hold your horses. The second list was a not-to-do list. If I looked at the time sinks that were leaving me with not enough time to complete what I wanted to, there was a clear pattern. I was being tricked into doing tasks that I didn't want to be doing. Like read an article that leads to another article that leads to another because I was in my buffer time only to realise that 'Oh shit! I now have lesser time to do what I had planned'.

And I put these things on the not-to-do list. And the seventy five percent is now inching closer to ninety percent.

Although to do or not to do is the question, the answer is a little bit of both.

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