Ditch your to-do list (and create this instead)

Posted on Jun 20, 2019

Mandy writing in notebook

What’s on your to-do list today? It’s a lot, right? You don?t want to do everything on that list. Some of those things have been there for weeks.

Why keep stressing yourself out with that lame, overwhelming list when you could be creating a shorter, more powerful, and energizing list instead?

That’s what I’ll show you today. You’ll learn how to transform your typical to-do list into a success list to get more done in less time and feel more creative, focused, and powerful.

Your to-do list replacement

Each morning, instead of creating a to-do list, I want you to start creating a success list—a prioritized list of important tasks.

A success list is a prioritized list of important tasks.

Let’s look at this definition closely before we jump into the how-to.

1st keyword: prioritized. When you prioritize before you start work, and then only do what’s on your list, busy work evaporates.

2nd keyword: important. They create value that matters. We’ll get into this more below.

3rd keyword: tasks. (Didn’t expect this word to be special, did you?) How often does your task list include massive undertakings like “declutter” or “find job?” These are not tasks, my friends—these are projects which belong on a list of their own. You want to know exactly what action to take for every item on this list. What is the next step(s) to move your project forward? (If you’re stuck, your next task might be, “Break project X into tasks.”)

Getting started

Start with a list of things you’d like to get done (aka your traditional to-do list.) Then use these items to write a new prioritized list of vision-aligned tasks. Use the following tips for deciding what makes the cut.

First, if it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it.

Otherwise, ask the focusing question, the importance question, and the strategic question.

Ask the focusing question

To get more done with less effort, always ask yourself the focusing question:

Question 1: What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

This comes from one of my favorite productivity books, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

You can use this question with your daily success list to decide how to approach a problem or goal. You can also use in the ideation phase of a project, or even earlier with strategic planning.

What do I mean by “easier or unnecessary?”

For example, say my #1 goal is to have one Focus Session scheduled by the end of this week. As I sit down Wednesday morning to write my day’s success list, I’d ask myself this question:

What’s the one thing I can do to book a Focus Session by Friday, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Say I have a list of ideas already noted. I can eliminate tasks that don’t impact this outcome—program content creation, for example.

When I ask this question, I’ll get new ideas: do a Facebook Live video describing Focus Sessions, send 10 emails inviting people to Focus Sessions…

If I do a Facebook Live video that’s engaging and creates a sense of urgency, people who already know me will see it, and it’s likely that at least one person will schedule. And if they do, I don’t have to do anything else on the list to reach my goal—they become unnecessary!

If they don’t schedule, then I’ll send 10 email invitations. And since I’ve just practiced communicating the value of Focus Sessions, this task will be easier!

Ask the importance question

Second, consider the Eisenhower Matrix of urgency vs. importance to resist the trap of letting unimportant work get in the way of what matters most.

Question 2: Is this important?

An urgent task requires immediate attention. You can either do it or delegate it, depending on its importance (and your creativity in finding a way to delegate.)

An important task is expected to have a considerable effect on your success or well-being. It aligns with what actually matters to you—the person you want to be, the way you want to feel, the vision you have for your future life. For an entrepreneur, it might be revenue-generating activities and rest. For a recovering creative, it might be those 20 minutes you’ve decided to spend every day practicing your favorite artform. Generally speaking, you know what’s important. But are you allowing this to drive your behavior?

Here’s a visual of how to act once you’ve determined whether a task is urgent and/or important.

The Eisenhower Matrix

UrgentNot urgent
ImportantDo it today.Plan when to do it
and schedule it.
Not importantDelegate it to
someone else.
Eliminate it.

Ask the strategic question

You might have tasks that you want to do, but they don’t make the cut using the above two questions. This is true, for instance, when we have creative ideas that don’t fit the traditional model of business value.

“[When you take action based on inner knowing,] just because those benefits are not recognized by a patriarchal culture as being of value doesn’t mean that they aren’t of value.”

Hiro Boga, business strategist, writer, mentor

In this case, ask the strategic question:

Question 3: If I’m saying Yes to this, what am I saying No to?

This lets you follow your inspiration while being intentional. Simply consider its impact and decide upfront what you’ll do.

For example, today I felt inspired to post to Instagram about the animal spirit card I drew yesterday. Will anyone change their life because of it? I don’t know. But I felt that saying Yes to this didn’t mean saying No to anything more important.

More powerful and more fun

Use these 3 questions to create a success list that makes your daily work more powerful and more fun:

  1. What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
  2. Is this important?
  3. If I’m saying Yes to this, what am I saying No to?

When you feel connected to the purpose behind the day-to-day tasks, it’s easier to do the work. You can stop doing everything that doesn’t matter—or at least head in that direction. Plus, you’ll feel a renewed sense of control as you raise your personal standards for how you manage your time.

Could you use one-on-one support to help you focus and get things done?

My clients love how I save them a ton of time and energy. For example, after landing his dream job (he’s currently planning a 10-day trip to Colorado with his wife and baby thanks to this job!), Kyle shared this about my coaching: “She kept me moving forward, and I resolved unknowns much more quickly and more decisively than I would have on my own.”

Let’s chat!