If you like to be organized, then you’ve probably made that to-do list that grows from three tasks to thirty in just one day with barely anything done.
What can you do to stop that list from killing your productivity?
So many people think they are being productive when they see a list of items being checked off one by one, but to-do lists don’t really make you more productive.
In fact, most people have trouble estimating how much time it takes to finish a task. Elon Musk underestimated the time so often he was always missing deadlines.
Many years ago, I had a to-do list. It was long because I was a control freak and perfectionist. My to-do list at one time was a five to seven page Word document. It felt good to go through the list and cross things out.
I was making decent money at the time. About six figures a year. But that was also the problem. I had evolved and I learned that I didn’t just want to have a to-do list. I wanted to have another person’s to-do list.
I started to develop that list, and that document got thicker and thicker and my own list got shorter and shorter as I assigned more and more tasks to other people.
Over time, however, I realized that having a list of tasks wasn’t what moved the company forward or got more achievements from day to day. I was spending too much time on these tiny details with these long lists. I needed to look at the bigger picture.
Watch this video about how your to-do list is killing your productivity.
List The Five Most Productive Tasks
In my home office, on my wall, there is what I call a list of the big five, the five things I want to do for the day. Every morning I have to do a major task, like call a partner or map a strategy for the company, for example.
Every day I make sure I don’t get off work until I have finished those five things. Now what’s interesting is sometimes it takes me hours or a whole day to do the list. Sometimes it takes me only an hour.
The question is, if I have a list of only five things and I’m done by noon, what do I do for the rest of the day?
I could celebrate. I could plan the next day’s to-do list which takes about five minutes. I could read. I could work on self development.
Some would say, because I finished early, I could continue working. But that’s not the answer. Keeping busy and hustling doesn’t mean you’re more productive.
Set Aside Thinking Time To Strategize
Instead, I take the time to think. Most entrepreneurs aren’t taking enough time to do this because when they’re running around on the hamster wheel, they can’t think. Only when they get off the hamster wheel can they sit there with a pad of paper and pen and think.
If you watch me, it’s like I’m daydreaming while I strategize.
In the morning, I don’t meditate. I do my Attitude of Gratitude Meditation exercise for 10 to 15 minutes, which works better for me than meditation. Then I have my breakfast.
Meditation is not the same as thinking. This is the time you use to think about your business and then let your mind go blank. That’s when a brilliant idea is going to hit you, that one idea that will transform your business.
In my office, I pace back and forth and talk to myself while I think about my companies. I draw on my whiteboard. I take about an hour a day for this thinking and strategizing.
A lot of entrepreneurs haven’t sat down to think about their business in a long time. It’s easier to just be busy.
Henry Ford said it best when he stated, “Thinking is the hardest work there is. That’s why so few people engage in it.”
Thinking is tough work. It’s easier to get on Facebook and waste time. The exception is if managing social media is part of your business! I only spend about 10 minutes a day on Facebook and I think even that is too much time.
So complete your five major tasks and then set aside time to strategize the next steps for your business.
Strategize For What You Cannot See
I’m not the type of guy who believes in positive thinking. If anything, I believe in negative thinking. Motivation is good, but for most entrepreneurs, desperation is even better.
I don’t recommend this to everyone, but sometimes I trap myself in a corner and make myself uncomfortable to make something happen. That’s the crazy way I challenge myself.
I don’t focus on mistakes. I just focus on the solution. So during my thinking time, I think about why one of my businesses is struggling and why it’s not working so I can turn it around. I come up with ten things that could make it work. Then, when I have a solution, I implement it.
My Strategy For Staying Productive
So that is what I do to increase my productivity. I don’t keep lengthy to-do lists and then check off the items one by one. It might give you some satisfaction to see a bunch of things crossed off at the end of the day, but that’s just a way to keep you busy.
This is my strategy for staying productive:
- Make a list of the top five things you want to finish by the end of the day.
If you finish early….
2. Set aside time to think about your business, especially if it’s struggling, and make a plan to turn it around.
Two things can really kill the productivity of your business. Making extensive lists of tasks that you cannot finish, and keeping constantly busy. Only focus on a few tasks, and then have time to reflect. That’s the solution.
What is one thing you’ll start doing now to improve your productivity? Comment below.