Must do or Could do?

October 24, 2022 - 3:05pm -- Selcuk Gulboy

I get stressed sometimes choosing what tasks to prioritize in my day.

Yesterday, I listened to an episode of Grow The Show, my favorite podcast for advice about making podcasts. The subject of the episode was how to deal with the stress that comes with managing a business and a podcast as well as all the other stuff that life throws at you. The show’s host, Kevin Chemidlin, said he had been stressed by all the things on his to-do list that he believed he should do to grow his business and podcast. 

He brilliantly realized he could cope with this stress by eliminating the word “should” from his vocabulary. He started labeling tasks as either “must do” tasks or “could do” tasks, because “should” is a judgmental word. Telling yourself you should do things makes you feel guilty or down on yourself when you don’t get to them.

Getting rid of my “should do” tasks is already helping my psyche, but still, I am running into a conundrum. How do I decide what my “must do” tasks are and what my “could do” tasks are?

Many musts are clear. I must take my son Abe to daycare. I must get to all my appointments. I must send out quotations on machines people contact us about—at least to the serious ones. It’s also a must to spend some time with my wife Stephanie every night before I work on my podcast or write a blog or do some personal-growth activity.

I often run into grey areas deciphering my musts and coulds. I like to record a gratitude list on my phone while taking a walk every weekday morning because it gets my mind ready to have a successful day. I also have kept a diary every night for several years documenting my days, and if I ever miss a day I go back and fill it in the next day. For me, it makes each day more meaningful by taking time to remember what happened. Those tasks are good for me, but they take time. Are they must do tasks?

In my work, deciphering between “must do” tasks and “could do” tasks gets difficult when it comes to tasks that have a strong possibility of yielding no results. Is it a “could do” or a “must do” to send out an email blast telling the world we are looking for a few specific machines—sometimes chosen at random? Usually nobody replies, but once in a while people contact us about something great. Is it a “must do” or a “could do” task to call a random customer out of the blue to ask if they have equipment to buy or sell. Is it a “must do” or a “could do” to spend extra time on a phone call that has a small chance to develop an important relationship. The used machinery business is fueled by serendipity that occurs when doing things that often seem elective.

We have such finite time and concentration in life, so I hope I’m choosing wisely between my coulds and musts. Defining my musts versus coulds remains an ongoing puzzle. I try to stick to my choices with discipline—until, of course, I encounter circumstances that change my priorities.

Question: What are three things you must do today and three things you could do today?

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