Sometimes the most useful advice is the simplest. Like David Allen’s popularization of Dean Acheson’s ‘Waiting For List’ idea.

  • Place an empty writing pad on the corner of your desk or worktable, along with a nice writing pen.
  • For each task or project you assign, each significant inquiry you make, and each thing you buy, jot down a few keywords on the pad:
    • ‘Lauren Q3 budget’
    • ‘Marc replace server’
    • ‘Team meeting Joan’
  • Swiftly read through that list every Friday afternoon. Check off everything that has been completed or delivered.
  • For each issue that’s left open, decide whether you want to pursue it now, or whether it can wait another week.

That’s it.

  • Naturally, you can also quickly check that list every time you have a chat with a team member.
  • Once you find that keeping a ‘Waiting For List’ works well for you, feel free to digitize it, in Outlook for instance. But start as simply as possible, with just pen and paper, to get the hang of it. 

The benefits

  • After a few weeks, your subconscious will realize that it is no longer necessary to remind you of all open issues. They’re now nicely tucked away on that list. As a result, your mind becomes much clearer and relaxed.
  • Additionally, you now have a complete picture of everything you have delegated, asked for, and ordered. That provides grip.
  • Your staff will quickly realize that tasks and projects are no longer being dropped. At least, not by you! You are no longer forgetful. They will become aware that they must honor their commitments to you or renegotiate in time. As a result, your team becomes considerably more dependable.

Of course, it also applies the other way around. Your most savvy team members will start keeping a list of everything you have promised to perform, on their own ‘Waiting For List’. They’ll also start holding you responsible for the commitments you make to them, as they ought to.

My own team and I have become much more reliable since we started using ‘Waiting For Lists’ in 2004. I’ll never want to be without one of them again!


Tom Sharp
Tom Sharp

Actionable tips and strategies for Young Leaders/Entrepreneurs | Leadership, Growth & Productivity | 7 Figure Founder | 2 Exits | 2 Bestsellers

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