To Do or Not to Do

April 2, 2018

The other morning, after carefully updating my handwritten to-do list on a — bonus points — recycled sheet of paper, I decided to skim that day’s Wall Street Journal. There, in a special workplace technology section, I found a piece titled “It’s Time to Get Rid of the To-Do List.”


And this was on the heels of a Fast Company post I saw with the headline “Do This One Thing to Make Your To-Do List More Effective.” (Reading this was on my to-do list.)

The author of the Journal article, Alexandra Samuel, wrote that “it doesn’t take long for your list of tasks to exceed what you can possibly get done — or even bear to look at.”

She suggested to dump the “one-size-fits-all monster” and replace it with several tools that will do the job, such as Amazon Echo for shopping lists, Slack for instant requests and Google Sheets for ideas.

Using multiple tools seems like a lot of work to me. I think I’d forget something jumping from apps to spreadsheets to lunchtime.

I once had a promising job interview with the editor of a trade publication that covered the TV and video industry. He asked me about my organizational skills, and I launched into this rambling explanation of my (now-retired) color-coded Post-it note system. The editor didn’t say anything for about 15 seconds after I finished. I assumed he was returning to consciousness. I’m still not sure if this was the reason that they didn’t offer me the position...

Adam Shell, the founding editor of Tactics who hired me at PRSA, was a to-do-list master. During any downtime, he’d busy himself updating the lengthy sheet of paper with organized tasks that he pinned to his cubicle bulletin board. It was neatly written — and long.

Shortly after I started at PRSA, I glanced at his pending tasks, which often included evergreen items that no one would actually consider starting, let alone completing, like, say, “Move all filing cabinets in storage and steam clean carpet,” which followed “Price steam cleaner rentals.” He also had “update to-do list” as something that he needed to do.

Superfluous chores aside, his list kept us on deadline during the publication’s early days. I started a similar checklist in subsequent months.

This past March 28 marked my 24th anniversary with PRSA. Not sure if Adam ever had “hire John” on his to-do list, but I’m sure glad that he did!

More content online

Aside from viewing the Strategies & Tactics online version and digital flipbook, be sure to check out PRsay, PRSA’s blog, for more content. We recently posted articles on the Winter Olympics and the Academy Awards. Dean Essner, our editorial assistant, talked with Hanna Bolte, APR, co-chair of PRSA’s Entertainment and Sports Communications Section, for a piece titled “Hashtags, VR and Winnie the Pooh: Watching the 2018 Winter Olympics as a Communicator.”

He also spoke with PRSA member Rob Biesenbach, a presentation expert and actor, for “What Professional Communicators Can Learn From Oscar Acceptance Speeches.”

Meanwhile, in early March, PRSA launched Content Connection, a digital hub that provides an array of news, research and case studies that are of interest to communicators. For example, in a post from March 12, Lisa Arledge Powell, president of MediaSource and chair of the Health Academy, interviewed State Farm about its successful content marketing partnership with the hit NBC series “This Is Us.”

To read more, visit PRSA Content Connection.

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.



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