Forget about your to-do list

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I hope you’re going for everything you want this year.

If you’ve been following along since January, you’ve been taking small, doable action steps to get closer to your dreams. That’s how it’s done, small steps, day in and day out.

You already know by now that you can’t do it all in one day. And you know that you’ve waited long enough to get started, so stop procrastinating!

I’ve taken you through beliefs, priorities, the wheel of life, setting SMART goals, small actions, and steps for figuring out what you want.

In the past month, I’ve encouraged you to get out of your rut, strike while the iron’s cold, and take a step back when you need to catch your breath.

All of this will be useful to remember when you jump in to do the work of your life.

Let’s take the next step right now: Forget about your to-do list.

Often, you make yourself a to-do list that’s pretty ambitious. Almost immediately you’re overwhelmed by how much you have to get done.

While lists can be critical to accomplishing tasks and reaching your goals, they have to contain the right things.

Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your inputs. So, if you’re in business, around 80% of your revenue should come from 20% of your clients; 80% of your output should be produced by 20% of your time. What few activities can you engage in that produce most of your results?

A to-do list filled with small, minor things will not get you there.

When you write a lengthy to-do list, it typically gives all items the same weight. Most often, you’ll pick the easiest, most fun tasks so you can get the rush of crossing them off your list.

Unfortunately, these items are usually not the most important ones; the most important get pushed off to another day until you’ve run out of time and then race to get them done in a panic.

As a result, you perpetuate the myths of your life: “I’m so busy.” Yes, but you’re busy chasing the wrong things. “I work well under pressure.” The self-created pressure due to putting off the most important things until the last minute hurts you more than it helps you.

At the end of your day, you’re still frustrated because there are so many things left undone on your to-do list, including the most important.

So let’s approach the to-do list a bit differently.

First, stop calling it your to-do list. That sounds like drudgery. Call it your success list. That’s the list that contains the items you need to do in order to race toward success, things that will result in significant progress toward your goals

Second, before you write your success list, write a master list. This is a list of all the things you need to get done. When you’re done with this list, you’ll know everything — small, big, minor, major — that has to get done. It’s going to be a big list.

Next, take from your master list the three most important things that will give you the greatest push toward your top goals and put them on your success list. Make the items as specific as possible. If you put “write book” on your success list, your brain can’t really process what that means. It’s too big and too scary and you end up doing very little of it. If you put “write half of chapter 1,” that’s easier to wrap your brain around.

Fourth, do those three things on your success list. They may take two hours; they may take all day. Plus, you’re going to be interrupted while you’re doing them. If you finish early, go back to the master list and get another high-payoff task to do. In this way, you’re making steady progress toward your goals and you won’t have a long list of things at the end of the day that you weren’t able to get to.

Last, write tomorrow’s three-item success list before you finish your workday today. You won’t waste your prime time tomorrow morning trying to figure out where to start your day.

See how earlier blogs on beliefs, vision, priorities, and goals are coming into play here? You have to know what you believe and where you want to go before you can write an effective master list and success list. Otherwise, you’ll keep chasing all of the small inconsequential things.

Get the Nerve!

About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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