Is Your To-Do List a Strategic Plan in Disguise?

Is Your To-Do List a Strategic Plan in Disguise?

If you are like me it is always going to be tomorrow, because today’s to-do list is just too pressing and then there is the client meeting the day after and then it’s the weekend and then you realise that there is a bank holiday coming up… and so on. You can never find the time ….so tomorrow actually never comes.

So let’s strip back strategic planning to its bare basics to expose the primary reason for blockage and inertia.

To-do lists

So what have these got to do with anything? Well, to-do lists illustrate the above dilemma very well.

Grab today’s to-do list, or if you haven’t made one grab a pen and paper and write one down.

Look down this list and tick all those to-do’s that you could actually clear right now with a single action. Like phoning your partner; making a bank transfer; returning a call. All of these and hopefully those you have ticked are not dependent on the execution or outcome of another subsidiary action.

What do I mean by that? Well take the example of “book hotel for new client business trip next week”. Being able to book the hotel depends on:

  1. The meeting dates confirmed by the client
  2. The flights have been booked
  3. Your colleague confirmed that they will also need to stay over
  4. You know which hotel you want to stay at
  5. And probably more…

So you reach for the ‘phone or fire up Outlook and then realise that actually the to-do cannot be done right now because you don’t have answers to the above. So you commit to doing it later – or tomorrow  – and it stays on the list. And what will happen tomorrow? The same.


Unless you rewrite the to-do as a number of do-able actions that you can actually tackle.

Thus, if your to-do list is headed up by a persistent and an action that is overdue shortly, you know why.

Profit growth

Let me now take a more serious example. The to-do reads: Grow Business.

Well, based on the illustrations above, I imagine this would sit at the top of the list for some time.

Job #1 is to break this action down into its constituent elements and then sequence and timeline them to produce a project programme that you can resource and tackle. Only once completed can you work through, tackle and clear each elemental action. Once all the actions are complete, the goal is achieved.

The planning cascade 

Actions complete strategies – strategies deliver objectives. Take a look at the planning cascade:
The Planning Cascade

Your next to-do: plan

Planning takes time – time means resources (money and people) – but so often the plan doesn’t include the budget to provide the resources – and we are too busy with the day job – so let’s put off the planning until…..well, until it’s probably too late.

So in your next plan (or budget) commit to including the cost of the resources needed to plan (time, people, money, consultant).

Otherwise you risk getting stuck in a cycle of planning inertia and the to-do at the top of the pile will continue to be: Grow Business!


By : Leslie Woodcock, TAB (Guildford & Woking)

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