Three Reasons You Should Publish Your To-Do List

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll have spotted something odd. I’ve started to publish my weekly to-do list.

I’ve had some positive reactions from other copywriters, along with a heated debate about whether towels are an acceptable anniversary gift.

But I’ve also had a few questions. Why publish a to-do list at all?

Well, curious reader. There are three reasons I do it. And three reasons you should too.

It Encourages Accountability

One of the biggest challenges you face when you leap from a salaried job to the world of self-employment is the total lack of oversight. No managers asking for pointless timesheets, not productivity meetings or nebulous targets. Just you, your clients, and the promises you make. Sometimes a client will need the work yesterday, but often it’s down to you to set the deadline. Then move it, because Game of Thrones is back on soon, or there’s an Olympics this summer, or you want to finish this book.

If you let your peers and your network see what you’re working on, you’re making them a promise that you’re going to get that work done. It’s hard enough to let a client know you’ve had to move the goalposts. Admitting to your professional contacts that you couldn’t be mithered this week is a whole different kettle of fish.

It Promotes Appraisal

I’m quite lucky. I very rarely need to move a deadline, and this constant terror of the breadline (hello Northern roots) or even worse – the dole queue – means that I work pretty much every hour I can. Saturdays, Sundays, evenings – if it keeps the mortgage paid, then I’ll keep typing.

So my digital to-do list is in constant flux. Things are always being added, being removed. At no point does it show me what I’ve done. Just that there’s a hell of a lot of work to do tomorrow so maybe I can get a few hours in before bed to get ahead of the day.

That published to-do list lets you see just how hard you work. All of that stuff you’d jotted down on Monday? That’s done. Well done you. The only reason your list isn’t any shorter is that you’re damned good at your job and highly in demand. So stop stressing, take an evening to catch up on Netflix, and appreciate how much you’ve actually accomplished.

It Forces You to See The Bigger Picture

One of my favourite books on freelance life is Chris Kenworthy’s The Human Freelancer. In it Chris explains that you need to have a vision of success that isn’t just about money. For him, it was a two day working week, gardening and pottering about. For me, it’s enough time to enjoy myself, enough cash to get down to Elland Road and to treat the wife, and varied enough clients to keep my job interesting.

So of course, my actual life has morphed into six day weeks, missed football matches, and occasionally getting flowers sent to Laura’s workplace to remind her the weirdo typing all night in the spare room is the man she married.

By dropping little personal tasks onto my to-do list, even things as simple as ‘pick out an anniversary present,’ ‘take the dog to play fetch’ and ‘meet dad for a pint before Leeds vs Burton’ suddenly gain the importance they should have. Yes, finishing that seven page website will pay the bills, but so would any number of jobs. Not many other jobs would let you clock off early on a Tuesday to get a drink in with your father before a League Cup game.

So yeah, there are work benefits to the to-do list, but I think the bigger picture is the most important. By saying to the world that you plan on enjoying your life, you’re holding yourself accountable for your own happiness.

And that’s got to be worth a quick snap and a Tweet.

What do you think? And what’s on your to-do list? Tell the world and share it on social media!

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