Most people's to do lists are either non-existent, or 200 items long. Both of these generally result in the essential items being missed, and the easy stuff being done instead. Let me show you how you should really be creating your to do list which focuses on big ticket items and actually getting results.
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Full Transcription Below:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Hayden Wilson here for Learn Share Grow live. This is Episode number 19 and today we’re still talking about time management. Today I’m going to speak to you about how to create a To-Do list that generates results that you can actually follow through with.
Basically, there are two types of people – I’m going to zoom my camera in – what you’ll find is there are lots of people. The one person on the left decides that he is just going to try and remember everything and on the right hand side you’ve got a person who has a long list of To-Do list items. Most people have what seems to be an ever growing list of To-Do’s and I’m here to share with you some strategies on how you can actually prioritise the different parts of that list and start to realise that these certain things don’t need to be done at this time and the list can be managed in a different way.
Most people’s To-Do lists are too long, there are no priorities built into them. There are mixed agendas within them and there are also unimportant items. All this leads to that feeling of being overwhelmed – so much to do, not enough time. This leads to stress and what happens when we are stressed - we start to procrastinate and do things that we shouldn’t do because that’s where the comfort lies. Our brain, our psychology, wants us to live in that comfort zone where things are easy. they’re good and we know what we’re doing, but to actually make progress we need to step out of that comfort zone and start to do things that actually need to be done – and that’s why I’m here.
So what I’m going to get you to do – if I just zoom in, I’m not sure if you can see it – I need you to make three lists. The first one, and this is an idea that comes from Graham Allcott – he’s a productivity manager in the UK. What he suggests is that you have three different lists and this is what I’m going to take you through. The first one is your major projects, so this might be move house; plan to host an event in April; or to complete a research assignment. Where most people go wrong is they mix their major projects which is the overarching theme of the different elements of their life, then they mix in their master actions which are the individual items to get the major projects done, and then they have a To-Do list which is a collaboration of pretty much everything that they need to do, but there’s no priority, no order and it just ends of being chaos.
So what I’m going to share with you is in our major projects, let’s take an example of moving house. What I need you to do is to break down all the steps required to actually move house. Because if you just have ‘move house’ or ‘plan to move house’ on your To-Do list, it’s extremely overwhelming because we know there are so many different tasks. So if I said to you do you want to plan to move house, or do you want to organise lunches for next week, of course the brain inherently wants to go to the easiest task as I mentioned earlier. So you need to make it easier on your brain to get stuff done by listing out all the master actions. So for example, say I’ve got ‘move house’ here as one of my major projects, the next thing I’m going to do is break it down into every single step. Here I’ve got four examples. Research schools - you need to know the levels of education for your children or maybe you want to go to University, so you need to look at the different schools that are around. So I want you to go on google and look for what schools would be appropriate for me. That is one item on your master actions list that we can then cross off or give a big tick off. I’m going to talk about why that’s important in a minute.
Then you need to think about redirecting all your different mail; you need to think about organising removalists; you perhaps need to book a pet sitter. These are all the little things that you wouldn’t realise unless you break them down by just having a major project. It’s very overwhelming, we need to break it down into the master actions.
So for each of our major projects I need you to break down all the different tasks that you need to complete to get that finished. Then, that will create your master actions list but this isn’t going to be enough. Without this there is still going to be chaos and no order so the next step from having this list and I usually break it down into headings and sub headings. The major heading is the project, then I have the sub headings, and then I give each one a priority – this is the major benefit of using this system, you must give them a priority. Without the priorities we’re just going to default to whatever’s easiest. We don’t think of the longer term. What I want you to do is think about managing tasks. The feeling of being overwhelmed comes from this whole big project that we need to complete, such as moving house – it’s very overwhelming, but when you break it down into these smaller tasks it’s a lot more manageable. We can start to foresee what needs to be done to get that end result. Always think of the end result but think of it in terms of the actions required rather than everything done at once.
So we have a list of master actions then give each one a number. There will be things in this list that you can and can’t do at this very present time and this is where a lot of people go wrong. They may have a list of 30, 40 of 50 items because they have too many things that they think are urgent and need to be done. We spend a lot of time creating these lists and getting this feeling of productivity when we having actually done anything. The actual work comes from completing these tasks, not planning them. I love planning, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge planner, but when I used to use this huge To-Do list – and I know this from experience – I used to put on the stupidest things just to give myself the dopamine release of crossing off an item or giving it a tick – I used to feel good about myself for completing the smallest of tasks, brushing my teeth or taking my dog for a walk, things that you should just be doing anyway. So don’t put those types of things on your master actions list because they’re just items that you should be doing in your everyday life.
Once we have all of our priorities you’re going to find that some can be done right now and some we can leave for others. I’m going to give you a few strategies on how you can get projects moving forward from other people. It can be a huge time burden when we have to wait for others to deliver our project. But what we’re going to do is take all the things that can be done right now and put them in our To-Do-Now list. This is going to create a much more concise list of items that we can actually do because if you have everything it’s very daunting to try and do everything, there are different parts and pieces, you need to wait for people, oh I need to wait for this, oh while I’m waiting for that I’ll just jump on facebook or I’ll just check my emails – this is what I want you to avoid, because that stuff, while it’s great and it’s enjoyable, it doesn’t actually get the result that we need. So once we prioritise them, I want you to work relentlessly and from start to end I want you to work through one of those priorities. Then once you finish that, move on to number 2, then move onto number 3. This is the only way that stuff truly gets done.
So that’s what you need to do. Firstly, create your three lists. The second thing I want to share with you – I’ll just grab my worksheet – when I’m waiting on items from others, I created a Due-From-Others list and this is an idea I got from a real estate guru John McGrath when I was listening to one of his podcasts. If you can see it, you’ve got the item description; you’ve got the Due From which is where you put the name; the expected date; and then lastly, you’ve got the follow up. Then what I want you to do, for everything that you are waiting for someone on, I want you to chuck that in the item description. Then in the next column you are going to say who it’s from then you’re going to talk about in the expected date - with every task you must set a date with that person, when can I see it, when will you be able to finish it, will you have that ready for me next Thursday, suggest a date – that’s always a good trick. Then, if they haven’t delivered, that’s what the follow up column is for. I want you to put a date, two or three days afterwards, or a tick that you have followed up or you’re going to follow up and when the new expected date is. This is a great way to track what items are incoming and what you awaiting because a lot of our time can be spent waiting for things from different people and this gives us a skewed sense of productivity because in our minds we’re thinking I can complete this but I have to wait for that so we’re passing the blame or responsibility – if you look back to your master actions there are a ton of other things that you can be getting done in different areas.
The third thing I want to talk to you about is what I call the Two Minute Rule. I adapted this from Tim Ferriss who is a productivity guru and a great mentor through books of mine – what Tim suggests if you can action the item right now - say an email or an SMS comes into your inbox or a phone call, which are all distractions by the way - but if you can action that within two minutes and find a resolution then the rule is, you just do it, just get it done because having 30 of those items, or 10 of those items even, 10 two minute items, you can just bang them out as you go, or they start to build up and accumulate then we get that same sense of feeling overwhelmed. A lot of people treat their inbox as their To-Do list and we have items on there from 5 days ago, 10 days ago, 3 months ago¸ and if we really look at it, there are things that we can action straight away. So every time something quick comes into your inbox or phone, if it takes less than two minutes you just need to action it. So that’s the Two Minute Rule.
Make sure you use your Due-From-Others list – it’s been amazing for any times I’ve needed to get some follow up on an item that I have created or I’m waiting for something on. Also, obviously, the main part of this video is to show you about the major projects which is the overarching theme of what you want to get done; the master actions which are all of the individual steps; and then from there prioritise; and create your To-Do-Now list.
Hope this helps. If you need any help, jump over to haydenwilson.com.au . Otherwise, I’ll see you on the next video. Ciao.