Work in Japan Advice Board

キービジュアル キービジュアル

Creative Career Path

Tyranny of the To Do List2010.12.27

    You’ve heard the perennial advice about making lists at the end of the calendar year. Last minute checklists, wish lists, New Year’s resolutions, even Santa makes a list, and checks it twice.


    One reason that list-making advice is perennial is that many people fail to follow through and implement the items on the lists they made the previous year. Lists are seductive because they are easy to create, but in fact they are very difficult to implement.


    Of course there is nothing wrong with using a To Do List for simple tasks with a clear end in sight, such as errands, a shopping list, or as a reminder of short term tasks with a deadline in sight. But things are often easier said than done. On a list, a task that takes only a few minutes appears alongside an item that might be better described as a goal or project. Even after you organize your list into categories and prioritize the items by importance, a list does not help you to estimate the actual time and resources required to accomplish all of the tasks.


    To make matters worse, the number of tasks tends to multiply as you go! You quickly find there is more involved in achieving your goal than it seemed at first. If you have deadlines for your projects, then a growing list means that you have more to accomplish in less time. The list becomes your task master. It causes you stress, whether or not the work gets done.


    A commonly used tool for team projects is a Gantt Chart, a way of coordinating multiple tasks on a calendar, assigning responsibilities and tracking progress on complicated projects. It is more sophisticated than a list, but conceptually it is in the same family. A Gantt Chart is a list on a timeline.


    While Gantt Charts can be useful for coordinating logistics and sequential workflow, if the tasks are poorly estimated or assigned, it becomes a terrible taskmaster, a list with legs. When you lock your list to a timeline, you run the risk of losing sight of the whole picture. In racing to achieve the what, you may forget the why. For this reason, I believe that the traditional To Do List is fatally flawed as a project management tool.


    Now there is a tool for goal setting and project management which overcomes the limitations of the list, by displaying all of your tasks in concentric circles around a central theme. This software solution is called Goalscape, and it runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux platforms. It currently supports English and German, but not yet Japanese characters.


    Goalscape frees you from the tyranny of the To Do list. It helps you face the fact that resources are limited, so the way to get results is to maintain flexible focus on your tasks, without losing sight of the whole and the why.


    The visual display in Goalscape gives you a Gestalt view of your projects and goals, emphasizing the importance of the whole view and the synergy of the parts. This is fundamentally different from the furious linear pursuit of goals racing against the clock or calendar. You can visually display the importance of a task and your progress toward completion at the same time. Moreover, you can assign responsibilities, attach links and files, and even present or collaborate online by sharing your Goalscapes with others.


    The chief limitation of the list is that it provides no sense of proportion in how to focus your attention and resources. Moreover, it tends to self-destruct by growing beyond your means to achieve its endless demands. Whether self-imposed or externally-driven, a task list is the tool of the taskmaster, and over time it will wear you down.


    By contrast, a Goalscape is vision-inspired and flexible in focus, working more like a map than a set of instructions. As you think about your goals for the coming year, free yourself from the tyranny of the To Do List, and set yourself a vision that is both inspiring and achievable.


    Find out how Goalscape works, with demo videos and a free trial version at


    William Reed


    WEB TV:




    • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加

    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

    Similar Articles