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PODCAST: Why your to-do list might be holding you back

Written on Nov 4, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

Brandon Fredericks, CPA, has opted out of the traditional to-do list, instead using his calendar to ensure he prioritizes the most meaningful work. 

“We get so infatuated with checkmarks and scratching things off,” said Fredericks, a principal at Apple Growth Partners. “And I think sometimes we just get so caught up with completing something, that we're not really asking ourselves, what is it that we're actually trying to do? What's the impact that we're trying to make?” 

Fredericks joined The State of Business podcast this week to discuss a blog post he wrote titled “The Death of the To-Do List-Why Your Calender is the More Powerful Tool,” about how that isn’t the most efficient way to prioritize important projects, how to use a calendar instead. 

A calendar allows professionals to be more objective and specific when blocking off time for certain tasks or meetings, Fredericks said. It forces one to consider how to spend time in a meaningful way because there are limited hours in the day. A to-do list, in contrast, can be endless, making it easy to lose track of what matters most. 

Each person has their own approach to scheduling what makes sense for them on their calendar, Fredericks said, but his approach is simple: if it’s important to you, schedule it. He said this even extends to activities outside of work, like spending time with family or working out. 

It can be difficult to decide what to prioritize, especially when there are different tasks competing for attention. To make this approach successful, Fredericks said to take some time to consider your role and what makes sense to focus on. 

“Look at your role within your organization,” Fredericks said. “Where do you provide the most impact or contributions? If you're a person providing client experience, you're going to need to look at your schedule and reserve time for those client meetings.” 

And for those worried that this means they’ll become overly scheduled, Fredericks said the intention here isn’t to schedule every minute. The calendar should be flexible, and it should bring intentionality and meaning to time. 

“To me, it's not so much about getting more done,” Fredericks said. “It's about the quality and what we're putting forth to move forward. Whatever that objective or initiative is, my metric or evaluation criteria at the end of the day is, how did we move the needle?”