How a Rock Star Made Me Think About To-Do Lists Differently

Christine Johnson, President, Cued Forward on

To-do lists, whether professional, personal, or some combination are often the guides of our day. During our busy work days, we often have long to-do lists that may take us in a direction that is the right one at the moment, but end up disappointing us because something else we may view as more substantial or important occurs at the same time. The delicate daily balance of to-do lists and the rest of the world is an ongoing struggle for many professionals. It took a rock star to make me look at to-do lists from a “give and take” approach.

In July 2015, my family travelled to Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. After exploring the park for a couple of hours, my family wanted to rest on a bench while I wanted to check off a few items my personal vacation to-do list. Continue to explore the park. Check. Get in my steps towards my daily walking goal. Check.

During the 20 minutes I was away, my family met and talked with Steven Tyler (front man of Aerosmith). They even took a selfie with him. And I missed it.

When I returned, they told me about their celebrity interaction. I almost fell over. I asked them to tell me all of the details. They said he was a great guy, approachable and sincere. I, of course, texted everyone who might be the least bit interested and put in on Facebook. Even though I was bummed I was not there, by the end of the day, between our family conversations and the conversations through social media, I felt like I had been there.

And sometimes with our to-do lists, feeling like you were present at a meeting, project discussion, social event, or school function is the best you can do. I made a choice to work on things on my own to-do list like we do everyday. Occasionally, we unknowingly give up something to get something else done. Looking at it in this light makes it seem completely negative, but there are positives to this, especially if you ask a lot of questions about the details of what happened and work with good story-tellers. Being able to feel the emotions and share the experience with a co-worker, supervisor, professional, or family member not only helps you recuperate from a missed opportunity, it helps build relationships with those around you, and allows others to enhance their own communication skills by bringing you up to speed. It grows a relationship that may not have had the opportunity to grow.

Yes, it’s like a kick in the pants when you miss the phone call when a customer you had been pursuing finally says “Yes” because you were handling another customer’s ongoing quality issue, when a prototype is tested and it surpassed performance expectations and you were working remotely that day, or you missed your child’s performance because your conference call ran long. Not everything can be avoided. You alternative choice still needed to get done. You made the right choice for that time. Now, use you team and others in the organization or family to fill you in on details and emotions so you do not feel like you missed out (or at least not as much) and still accomplished your to-do goal.

Your to-do list isn’t going to change or in most cases, shrink. Your approach on how you handle the items you did not choose to purse that cause simultaneous joy (or grief) will allow you to see your to-do list less like a silo of activities, but as an important decision-making and organizational cohesiveness tool that can build relationships and realize that coincidence and time are something that you cannot control.

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