I love keeping to-do lists. They help me stay on task, keep track of my progress, determine who should be doing what, and so much more.
But I have to constantly remind myself that a to-do list is not a plan.
Starting a to-do list isn’t the creation of a plan, and crossing that last item off the list (as embarrassingly satisfying as that feels) is not the completion of a plan. It’s just a list. Helpful, to be sure, but it’s not a plan.
If I want to get things done, I need a to-do list. If I want to get important things done, I need a plan.
Usually, a good plan will involve a to-do list – maybe several lists for every step in the implementation of the plan. But a good plan is much more than that.
A Plan Or a To-Do List – What’s the Difference?
Creating a plan is a much less practical process than creating a to-do list. Here are a few ways to tell the difference.
- If everything in your plan makes sense, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If the plan doesn’t scare you a little, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If the plan doesn’t have any organic growth, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If your plan doesn’t challenge anyone, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If your plan doesn’t change the way anyone thinks, acts or feels in a significant way, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If your plan doesn’t stretch anything but your schedule, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If your plan fixes current problems without creating new challenges, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
- If your plan does the same things more efficiently, instead of creating new things to do, it’s not a plan, it’s a to-do list.
Plans stretch us. They propel us to a place we would never dream of going on our own.
To-do lists can keep us on track, but they never create a new track. Only an intentional plan does that.
Why a Plan Matters
If you’re a church leader, I encourage you to take a look at your upcoming church calendar. Is it filled with tasks and events that can be completed through the use of a thorough to-do list? Or does it challenge you toward something bolder than that?
Is there an idea, a vision, or a hope for something greater in your future? Is there something new, fun and/or scary that requires more than a to-do list to accomplish?
If there’s nothing new on the horizon, you’re not planning anything, you’re just doing events, projects and programs.
Certainly, events, projects and programs need to be done – and they should always be managed well. That’s why I love to-do lists.
But new life, hope and dreams never happen on a to-do list. We need a plan for that.
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