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No Refunds on Spent Time

checkIn order to get things done, I need to push myself and stay focused on the project at hand. I disagree with a recent article from Harvard Business Review which states that the To-Do List does not help.

I remember when MS Outlook Tasks was first released, and Mike Scott of Totally Accountable taught me how to get the most efficient use from it, as one of the best time management tools he had yet seen. He said not to place more than six tasks in each category. He suggested having three categories:  Must Do, Need To Do, and Should Do. His point was to develop three short lists and focus on the “Must Do” list first. He also pointed out that there is no way to get back any time that was misused; once spent, there is no going back. To say it another way, “If misused, there is no refund.”

A wise business person, however, will look for ways to turn losses into opportunities. Sometimes, a task or event that is “misused” can be corrected and used as an opportunity. For example, the other day, when I went to Starbucks and ordered my drink, I was given the wrong drink. The barista apologized, gave me a coupon for my next visit at Starbucks, and re-made my drink correctly. That same day, I went to a restaurant for dinner and the server brought my wife the wrong entree. She gave me a credit on the bill and a brought us the correct entree.

In our external environment, we may get a refund or credit on the mistakes made in execution of poor service, but in our internal environment, there is:

  • No refund on lost time
  • No refund on poor focus
  • No refund on failing to think out a strategy
  • No refund on a poorly executed plan

At the end of the day, when I check my To-Do List to see what I have completed, there is no refund on the task or job that was not accomplished. Some tasks may expire and some tasks may roll over to tomorrow’s To-Do list, but time itself can never be recovered.

Yet, the sun always comes up tomorrow. Sometimes our worst mistakes offer us the best lessons learned. While lost time results in lost opportunity, some kind of value can always be gained when we are willing to learn.

Élanstrategic can help with time management issues. Call 952-960-6688 or visit for more information.