[Originally, this article was meant to be a guest post for a popular blog in hopes that I will attract visitors from there to my blog. I submitted it, but never heard back from them. So after giving it some thought, I said fuck those bastards, and make this piece available to you guys. Here it is in its entirety. And notice the lack of cuss words in this one. The shit you do to get famous…]
Whenever I tell people that something as simple as creating and completing a to-do list on a daily basis can explode their productivity, it’s often met with disbelief.
This is because a to-do list doesn’t sound cool, or complex. It is not a complicated thing.
In general, people have a notion that in order to create a positive change in their lives, as is the case with being more productive, they must do something painful or difficult.
‘Change is hard’, they have been told, so they expect me to spit out a secret ritual that will turn their lives around.
But that is simply not the case.
Change is easy when you use the right tools in the right manner.
Change happens when you modify your behavior. It’s a simple gesture done everyday that makes the difference. Big change occurs when you make a number of small changes in your life.
So why is that certain people skyrocket their productivity with the to-do lists, while others don’t get anything done?
The answer is that there is a certain formula according to which to-do lists must be created. Failure to create it in this particular manner will make the list no more than ‘just another self-help hack that doesn’t work.’
In this post you are going to learn to create to-do lists that don’t just written down, but actually be done with.
1) Keep It Small
The biggest mistake people make when creating a to-do list is including a ton of activities in it.
This is just plain wrong.
Your to do list is not a grocery list, nor is it a list of your daily routine.
Here is an example of a to-do list done wrong:
- Check the email
- Complete the project
- Go to the gym
- Talk to the client
- Meet up with friends
- Buy beer from mart
- Do the laundry
- Walk the dog
- Call Katie
- Go to the neighbor’s party
There is a serious problem with the list above- it contains a lot of irrelevant activities. By irrelevant, I mean those tasks which do not help you in achieving your goals in any way.
Remember that the sole purpose of writing a to do list is to propel you forward in life. In most cases, that is in financial terms.
So you will have to sacrifice certain activities in order get done what really matters.
When you keep your to do list short, you focus on what’s important.
The most successful entrepreneurs I know of, include only one item in their to do list. They ask themselves- what is the single most important thing to be done the next day for their business to move forward.
You should be asking the questions in the same vein- what are the three most important, utmost urgent things that need to be taken care of the following day that will have a positive impact on my business?
Remember the Pareto principle- 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of the actions you take. What are those actions? More importantly identify and eliminate the remaining 80 percent of the futile tasks.
Seriously, not buying beer from mart is going to have no serious consequences down the road.
Following the rule above, we declutter our list and the following tasks remain:
- Check the email
- Complete the project
- Talk to the client
Now that’s a whole lot better than what we had started with. Instead of daunting, it seems doable.
But something is still off about that list. This is discussed in rule number two…
2) Prioritize It
Once you have identified and written down the three most important tasks for the following day, it’s time to prioritize it.
Rewrite those activities in order of their value.
The goal here is to focus on the most high value activity and making it the priority, followed by the second most high value activity, succeeded the third activity.
What needs to be done the first thing in the morning? Put it at the top of the list. Next, what is the second most relevant thing to do?
Thus, your list is prepared in order of importance.
So our previous list now becomes:
- Talking To The Client
- Completing The Project
- Checking The Email
This is the correct order of the way things are to be done (in this case.)
What if all the three activities are just as important? What do you do then?
In that case, you must eat the frog. Not in the literal sense, of course.
‘Eating the frog‘ is a phrase popularized by Mark Twain, where ‘frog‘ refers to an activity that you dislike, and ‘eating‘ indicates ‘doing‘ or ‘completing‘. Hence, eating the frog means completing the task that you dislike.
Start your to-do list by involving yourself in the activity that you hate the most in it. Be done with it, so you can later take care of rest of the easy stuff.
In the above scenario, talking to the client may instill feelings of apprehension in you, and you may want to push it down in the priority.
This is the reason it needs to be on top of the list. The frog must be eaten.
Identify the frog in your to-do list and gobble it down.
3) Keep It Simple, Stupid
The final, and perhaps the most important tip is to keep your to-do lists simple.
We are trying to keep things simple here.
Once people go overboard with the technique, and start making their weekly and yearly to-do lists, things go off the rail. Instead of being a productivity tool, they begin to feel like a burden.
Robin Sharma often quotes that your day is a miniature of your life. The way you live your day is the way you live your life. Focus on making your next day better.
We are not planning out our lives here. Nobody can. It doesn’t work.
What we can do, is how we live our following day, and then the next day, and the day after that, and so forth.
Success doesn’t come in an instance, rather it happens one day at a time. The goal here is to make every single day count. That is all there is to it.
Until Next Time,
And this is where I go over my usual rant: if you liked what you just read, make sure that you sign up for our newsletter. And if you are really sexy and handsome, and resemble the greek god, you will like my page on Facebook.
Now get lost, fuckface.