Rules for CORE Agents #27: Important Things Go On a Schedule, Not a “To Do” List

I love making “to do” lists.  Take out a piece of paper, write a bunch of tasks on them, and then feel that ecstasy of accomplishment when I get to cross something off.  So satisfying!

Bu to do lists should only be used for small things, not big things.  They’re great for keeping tack of the ticky-tack tasks that come up in our everyday lives: checking our email, returning a call, picking up the dry cleaning, calling the vet.  We need to do those things, we don’t want to forget them, so putting them on a simple “to do” list is a great way to manage them.

The problem with “to do” lists is that they’re too democratic: every task counts the same, regardless of scale or priority.  We mix hard stuff with easy stuff, big things with small things, two-minute tasks with five-hour projects.  And then we end up creating a false sense of accomplishment when we get to cross a bunch of items off, even if all we did was finish a lot of busywork. At the end of the day, we’ve crossed 90% of the items off, but the problem is that they were the easiest 90%.  Lots of times, I even put things on my “to do” list that I’ve ALREADY DONE, just to enjoy the sight of all those cross-outs.  SO PRODUCTIVE!

That’s why you shouldn’t use “to do” lists for big, important things that take a lot of time and effort: lead generation, lead followup, client updates, going to the gym, all the stuff that goes on our “to do” list and never gets done because we gravitate to the easiest items on our list.  Indeed, the best way to get a lot of busywork done is to put something like “go to the gym” on the list: you’ll spend so much time avoiding going to the gym that you’ll cross everything else off the list.

Big, important, hard things don’t go on a “to do” list, they go on a schedule.  Make appointments each week dedicated to lead generation, or lead followup, or client updating, or working out, or whatever.  If it’s big and important, then it should have its own dedicated time on your schedule. It shouldn’t be relegated to just one more item on your “to do” list.

The key is that you have to respect yourself.  You have to treat that appointment with yourself like you would treat an appointment with someone else.  You can’t break it, you can’t blow it off, you can’t be late.  If you had a listing appointment at 5PM and got a call from another agent at 4:45 to talk to you about an inspection, you wouldn’t just sit there letting the agent natter on for 45 minutes and blow off your listing.  You wouldn’t skip your doctor’s appointment because you got caught up in your email.

Your appointments with yourself deserve the same commitment.  Big things go on your schedule, as appointments with yourself that you’re going to keep.


This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.