Do you work really hard but don’t make as much progress as you’d like? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I used to feel the same way, but then my dad taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.
What I Was Doing Wrong
Five years ago I met with my dad for lunch. When he got to the restaurant I was already there and had my daily to-do list on the table. My dad asked, “what is that?” I told him it was the list of things I had to do that day. He said, “that list is way too long. I bet you don’t get much real work done.” I denied it, of course. But, five minutes later, I admitted he was right and ask him for advice.
What He Taught Me
He then showed me his to-do list. It was a sheet of paper with a horizontal line on it. There were two items above the line and five below it. He explained, “Every day I ask myself ‘What’s the one thing that I should do today to get closer to my goal?’ One thing, maybe two, but definitely not ten. I write those two items above the line. Then I ask myself, ‘What other things would be nice to do today?’ and I write those below the line. Every day I work on the items above the line and ONLY IF I HAVE TIME do I work on the ones below the line.”
The Epiphany
That made me realize that my criteria to decide what days were productive and which ones weren’t was the number of things I got done one any given day. I used to do 30 things every day and my dad did only two. But his two were the absolute two most important things he could do to move his business forward.
The Takeaway
I highly encourage you to ask yourself these questions: “What’s the one thing I can do to get closer to my goal?” “What’s the one thing that will generate the biggest impact on my business/life?” Make sure you do those things first, and if you have time, then you can do everything else on your list.
A Great Idea
One more thing: It’s natural to feel good about crossing things off our lists. We love getting things done. That’s why we don’t like big important projects as much as tasks like “checking the email”. The latter gives you more instant gratification because you can do it in five minutes and cross it off your list. Here’s a trick to get the same level of satisfaction from working on big projects: break them down into chunks. If your next priority is to build a new site, your next step could be “put together a list of 10 websites I like”.
What do you think? Do you have other tips on becoming more productive?