• April 2014

Hiring Expert Barbara Mitchell Shares a Page From Her Personal Playbook

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

Many years ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a woman who was walking through a shopping area and saw an art store. She had always wanted to paint, but had never taken the time to start. She said it was on her “50 things to do before I die” list. That day she went into the store, bought art supplies, and got started.

I thought about her idea of a list and decided then and there to start my own list—but not call it a “before I die” list. I decided to just make it my personal to-do list.

I make lists all the time—daily in fact. They include all of the things I need to accomplish both personally and professionally. So this new list was be an extension of that practice and would only cover things I thought that I might do this weekend or on that magical “someday.”

This list has become my personal playbook!

Putting the original list together was fun. I asked myself a series of questions like what events I would like to attend, what countries or places I’d like to visit, and what experiences I had always wanted to try.

While I hadn’t actually made a list like this before, I knew what the first two things on the list should be—owning my own business and publishing a book.

These had always been dreams of mine, and I was fortunate enough to have succeeded in checking them both off the list.

  • In 1998 I started The Millennium Group International, LLC with my business partner, Margaret Lack. We successfully sold that business in 2008.

It was great already being able to cross two things off the list.

What I have learned from the practice of having my personal to-do list is that it will never be finished.

I have also learned that having a random number like “50 things to do,” can be a good start. But it doesn’t make sense to hold yourself to a number—you may only have 10 things you want to do while someone else might have many more than 50.

One of the top items on my list was to live in Paris.

I thought about all the ways I could make that happen, and finally settled on going there for a month, renting an apartment, and immersing myself in the city and the culture.

I did that in 2010, and it remains one of the highlights of my life. I am not sure I ever would have done it had I not put it on my list (and gotten a major push from my nephew Colin, who apparently got tired of hearing me talk about it and said one day, “Barbara, are you ever going to live in France?”)

I must admit I have been fortunate to already have had some amazing life experiences that qualify for my personal playbook.

  1. I’ve been to the Summer Olympics (Winter is still on the list).
  2. I was really fortunate to know someone who got tickets from her ex-husband, the movie producer, to go to the Oscars, so I’ve been to the Academy Awards.
  3. I’ve been to the Super Bowl.
  4. I’ve visited all 50 states … the list goes on.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  1. I still want to go to all four of the tennis Grand Slam events and the four major golf tournaments.
  2. I want to write and publish a novel.
  3. I want to visit all the Presidential Libraries.
  4. I want to take a river cruise in France.
  5. I want to take a cooking class in Italy, and so much more.

Recently, I found a notebook that lets you put it and gives you a page for each experience to explain why it made your list and how it felt to do it or accomplish it.

I love filling a page with the stories about something I’ve wanted to do and did, and I love checking things off my list. My personal playbook is filled with a never-ending list of what makes my life so rich, and so very enjoyable.

What’s on your list?


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook, and The Big Book of HR. Click here to buy the book.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Mitchell by email.

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