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Rethinking the To-Do List: How to Amplify your IMPACT

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

If you are anything like me... you love your "To Do" lists. I mean seriously LOVE those lists!

True Confession...

I have actually written a task down after completing it just so that I can cross it off my list! Embarrassing, yes, but am I alone? Am I the only one out there creating these lists and gleefully crossing items off? List lovers, are we a large group of people or a relatively small group of list-crazed "To-Doers"?


Whether you are on the same page as the crazed "To-Doers" or not, we all wake up each morning facing a long list of "things" we need to accomplish in our work lives and our personal lives. Whether you use a digital workflow tool like Monday, Ascend, calendar tasks, or the old-fashioned paper and pen, we do have to manage getting the work done. How we get that work done, how we tackle the challenges is in our control.

Today, my perspective on the To-Do List shifted. Jay Shetty, author, podcast host, former monk, introduced me to the idea of a To-Be list as opposed to a To-Do List. Jay eloquently invited me to consider shifting from listing the tasks associated with getting something done to consider the qualities, and character traits it may take to get the task completed. He provided the example of the task of wanting to learn to rock climb:

  • To Do's

    • Buy climbing shoes

    • Watch technical videos

    • Take classes at a gym

  • To Be's

    • Adventurous

    • Confident

    • Persistent when it gets tough

When thinking about our tasks, "To-Dos", Jay invites us to think about what it will take to get to the outcome: patience, creativity, flexibility, focus, reflection... rather than focusing solely on the outcome. This really resonated with me in thinking about implementation. Implementation=change, change=learning, learning takes time and opportunities to build skills, competence, and confidence. When we focus solely on the "tasks" associated with implementation we may miss building the skills, attitudes, beliefs, and thinking that will be critical to getting to full and effective implementation of an innovation. For example, when implementing a new curriculum, the To-Do List could include:

  • Purchase materials

  • Train staff

  • Review data at end of the year

A To-Be List could include:

  • Be discerning - select high-quality evidence-based materials

  • Be intentional about professional learning - use ongoing and embedded learning designs to build skills and competence

  • Be curious about how it is going - check-in all along the way using data and implementation integrity tools

In reality, when designing implementation, we need to think about both the task and the attitudes, skills, beliefs necessary to get the innovation implemented fully and effectively. This is why IMPACT Learning and Leading Group includes human and learning-centered design elements in our IMPACT Implementation Framework. This is why IMPACT Solutions include readiness tools, professional learning designs, and a communication map. We know it will take getting things done ("To-Do"), and focusing on attitudes, beliefs, and building skills ("To-Be").

Some closing thoughts about the To-Be list and implementation:

When designing your next change initiative, new curriculum, new behavior program, PLCs implementation, MTSS implementation, etc. consider adding these Seven Implementation "To-Be's" to your implementation effort:

  • Be ready (use a readiness tool)

  • Be inclusive (include implementers' voices in the design)

  • Be a listener (listen to stakeholders and implementers)

  • Be a systems thinker (look for diverse ways to maximize implementation)

  • Be data-driven (adopt an iterative improvement cycle and use it)

  • Be adaptive (prepare to be flexible and make intelligent adaptations)

  • Be intentional (think about fit, feasibility, and readiness)

While I am not ready to tear down my To-Do list, I am going to add what attitudes, character traits, or strengths it will take to get the tasks done. Today I added: BE flexible, BE solution-focused, and BE productive. The tricky part of this transition is that these items are not something I will be able to cross off my list. I am never done learning and growing and improving these types of skills, and I am okay with that.



Jay Shetty,

Think Like a Monk, Simon and Schuster, 2020

CALM, 2022


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