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Issue: 57 - Sep 15, 2013
3 Creative Twists on the Old To-Do List
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ & Kelly Serfas
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Time management is a myth.  Time management is really self-management. Today we share 3 pearls to help you manage your time… and yourself.

Twist #1

Feeling overwhelmed? Overloaded? Overcommitted?

Here's a simple and creative way to work toward stress elimination: write a list of the top 10 sources of stress in your professional and/or personal lives. The simple act of precisely identifying causes of stress and putting them on paper (or a digital note pad) can help you reduce tension in your life.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Stop the fights between the “front” and the “back.”
  • Stop the fights between Jane and Joe.
  • Eliminate my school loan.
  • Find a new job.
  • Find a nicer apartment.
  • Lose 30 pounds.
  • Fire Audrey

Added bonus: since this is a checklist, the feeling of crossing things off one by one is a wonderful feeling as well. Enjoy the endorphin rush – courtesy of ImproMed.

Twist #2

Over at, Shane Fielder came up with a creative twist on the traditional "to-do list." Shane wanted to get up earlier.  The difference with most of us?  Instead of simply “wishing” or “trying,” he looked for a way to encourage him to get up earlier not just once or twice, but every day.

He came up with the idea of taking a picture of the sunrise every day for 90 days.  “It requires me to be up and ready by about 5:30 am each day to catch the sun come up over the hilltop near my house,” Shane explains.

To increase his accountability, he went one step further and posts his daily picture in his blog. You can use the same creative concept to reach a new goal, whether personal, professional, physical, mental or dietary.

Twist #3

Our third tip of the day stems from a classic quote by Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant and author: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

In addition to your (most likely) endless "to-do list,” the idea is to create a "NOT to-do list.”  It should include things you refuse to do, or you do not have to do, or you should not do.  Again, this idea applies to your personal life as well as your professional life.

Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Do not check your phone/emails/text messages when you are talking to someone, or in a meeting.
  • Do not think about people and events that make no difference in your life.
  • Do not use instant notification, or don't pay attention to it when you are working.
  • Do not think about work issues during family time.
  • Do not think about family problems during work time.
  • Do not procrastinate.
  • Do not attend useless meetings.
  • Do not micromanage.
  • Do not gossip.
  • Do not complain.
  • Do not multitask.

Want to improve your time management skills?  Then follow our three suggestions to enhance your effectiveness creatively:

  • Eliminate sources of stress one by one;
  • Attach your big daily goal to a small, easy to reach goal, and
  • Stop doing things you shouldn’t be doing.

By doing this, you will free up valuable time, which you can then dedicate to truly worthy goals.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.