6 Ways to Fix Your Frozen To Do List

Radhika Sivadi

2 min read ·


Feel stuck? If you can't prioritize your company's to do list, none of your decisions will ever get executed.

Let me guess: You make what seem to be a great decisions, but then weeks later, they haven't been effectively executed. Or you constantly struggle to implement new ideas.

Worst of all, you probably can't quite put your finger on why the implementation or execution isn't happening. All you know is that you're looking at a growing number of organizational 'spinning beach balls'. Your business has hit the organizational equivalent of computer overload.

Sound familiar? The good news is that once you realize what's happening, diagnosing (and fixing) this type of malaise isn't actually that difficult:

1. Make an inventory. This is the important first step in 'unfreezing' your organization. Take a blank sheet of paper and pen, sit down, and list out every major issue that has got your conscious and sub-conscious attention.

Think of this as a brain dump– a complete list of all the people, places, products or processes that are bothering you, intriguing you, or otherwise occupying your mental bandwidth.

2. What's draining the most energy? At least one of the issues on your inventory will stand out as more draining than the others. Maybe it's a hiring decision you've been putting off, a warehouse process that's really bugging you, or a reporting process that you know needs radically overhauled.

This issue will be the most likely cause of your freeze. Fix it and unblock the company's ability to execute.

3. Don't wait for the perfect time. Most business leaders stumble with this. Almost always, you're waiting for the perfect time to tackle the issue. "I shouldn't make that VP Sales hiring decision until the Q3 revenue numbers are in"; "I musn't rearrange the warehouse layout while we're still considering a second shift"; "I can't change the weekly operations meeting format with a new GM just arrived on the job."

Here's the truth: There'll never be a perfect time. If one issue is clogging up your organization's overall ability to execute, the time to fix it is now. Period.

4. Don't become fixated on the final outcome. Envisaging the totality of a decision is paralyzing: "I know I need a new VP Sales, but gosh, think of the implications for the sales team"; "If we rearrange the warehouse, what does that mean for our delivery scheduling and the size of our fleet?"; "To change the ops meeting the way I want means also redoing the job specs for the folks involved."

Of course, these are all important considerations, and you should think them through, but once you have done so, it's vital not to get hung up on the implications, particularly if the implications are wide-ranging.

5. Identify the next action. As my friend (and productivity guru) David Allen says, "The only thing you can ever actually do is the next action."

You can only fix something by taking a series of discrete, individual steps. What's the next single action requited to fix your issue? Setting a date for a hiring panel? Making a phone call to a builder to take down a wall in the warehouse? Drafting a memo to be sent out? Identify the single next action–as granular as you can make it–and do that.

6. Repeat until done. Finally, repeat steps five and six until the offending issue is fixed. Then watch as your organizational 'spinning beach balls' disappear, and your business returns to fluid, effective execution and implementation.

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    Radhika Sivadi