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Success Advice

The Number One Thing to Stop Doing to Become More Effective

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how to be more effective

We all have this crazy love-hate relationship with our To-Do list, right? (Ok, for many it might be straight-up hate or profound avoidance.) I get it because I talk to clients about it every day.

But there’s one major problem with how most of us approach our to-do list: We become obsessed with getting it ALL done ASAP! We start creating “Dream Lists” of 15-20 things that we are determined to complete today. Then, we only knock out 4-6 of them because other things get in the way, and we feel frustrated and depressed. Does this sound familiar?

If so, then I’m going to tell you the one secret that can immediately shift that destructive and disempowering pattern in your life. Even better, it’s something for you to STOP doing…Stop confusing your “Master List” for your “Today List.”

 

1. What is your “Master List”?

We all have dozens, if not hundreds, of things on our plates. Writing them down allows you to reflect and prioritize your actions. Capturing those tasks in one consistent place (a notebook, software app, etc), establishes the beginning of your “Master List.”

Your “Master List” is the one place where all your actions live. It’s where all those possible actions hang out until you’re ready for them. But, it’s not what you work from during each day. Trying to work from your “Master List” will feel crazy overwhelming because it will, and should be, never-ending.

In the best of all possible worlds you will still have a to-do list on the day you die. Having the list is a sign that you’ve stayed engaged in your life all the way to the end. In other words, having a list is a GOOD thing.

“The only thing more important than your to-do list is your to-be list. The only thing more important than your to-be list is to be.”   – Alan Cohen

The types of tasks on the list may evolve over time, but having a “Master List” is every bit as important as having a calendar to remind you of when to show up for the dentist or that lunch date with your friend.

 

2. What is your “Today List”?

If your “Master List” is where all your actions live until you choose to complete them, then your “Today List” is the SHORT selection of the items that are your priority for today. This list should have no more than four items on it.

Just four tasks? (And I do mean tasks, not projects. Actions that you can complete in 5-30 minutes.) This might sound like horrifying levels of under-achievement. But, things are going to come up. That call from your client, that urgent email response, the last minute errand for your kid’s homework. New tasks show up in our lives constantly each day.

When we choose our four priority tasks intentionally each day, then we can both keep ourselves focused and leave space for the urgent things to arise without knocking us off course or making us feel overwhelmed.

What I teach my clients is that your four daily tasks include: your “Inspired Action” and 3 bonuses. Your “Inspired Action” is a commitment that you’re making to yourself. This one item, come hell or high water, will get done before the end of the day. Once that’s accomplished, then the other three items are your next top priorities.

If you get through all four tasks on any given day, then celebrate! Seriously… 3 minute dance party, at least. When you’re done celebrating, then you can decide if you want to go back to your “Master List” and choose another task to power through. Or, you can leave space for inspiration, flow, or other activities as they arise. You’ll likely choose what works based on your energy and schedule for the day.

“Make each day your masterpiece”  – John Wooden

When you stop confusing your “Master List” for your “Today List”, then you increase your ability to focus and decrease your persistent sense of overwhelm. It’s one of the simplest, and fastest tricks to immediately improve your effectiveness each day.

Have you been confusing your “Master List” and “Today List?” Please share with us in the comment section below!

Erin Wells is The Intentionality Expert, Productivity Strategist and founder of Chosen Course. Erin helps high achievers, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and influencers to improve their productivity, focus, and effectiveness in their work and daily life. Erin is the author of Inspired Action: Create More Purpose, Productivity, & Peace in Your Life. You can Download your FREE Start Your Master List eGuide to learn more about To-Do’s Done Right.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    vicky

    Jul 17, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Erin your article is so nice…but what is the most important thing for continuing to make a “master list” daily? I try it many times but never continue it for long.

    • Avatar

      Erin Elizabeth Wells

      Aug 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Vicky,
      It’s a habit that’s rather like getting use to writing all your appointment info in your calendar every day. It takes practice. But, more than anything you have to create a relationship with the tool you’re using to hold your master list that allows the habit to become as easy as possible.

      If you’re just writing it on a random sheet of paper, then you aren’t creating a consistent relationship with a specific tool. That’s why I would encourage you to choose a specific notebook or a well-designed project management app to hold this information for you. Just like you would buy a good day planner for your calendar or choose calendar software that’s a good fit for you. There needs to be one place where this information lives in your world, and you have to develop the consistent habits of capturing new tasks onto it and reviewing it each day to decide your priorities for your Today list.

      For more about getting this system up and running for you, I would definitely pick up the free Start Your Master List eGuide that I created to walk you through the initial system setup and offer some tool recommendations. You can grab it here: http://www.chosencourse.com/12Stop.

      Good luck!

  2. Avatar

    Stefanie

    Jul 14, 2016 at 5:39 am

    Hi Erin, I love the idea about having one mission and 3 bonuses! Just a slight change of words, but it shows clearly that one has more impact than the other.
    I have been using Trello for my weekly goals, which I plan together with my husband every Sunday. Each of us has 3 goals each day which we mark with labels, so we know who of us will accomplish this goal. This is really helpful as we can interact on the goals and track the progress.
    I noticed that sometimes, we have tasks which are too huge. I’m going to take into account what you wrote about actions (5-30 min.). This is really helpful to not feel overwhelmed. Thank you!

    • Avatar

      Erin Elizabeth Wells

      Aug 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Hey Stefanie,
      Glad it helped! It’s amazing how just a minor change in words can actually make a big difference in how you feel every day :).

      Keep going and knock it out of the park!

  3. Avatar

    Shawn Lim

    Jul 11, 2016 at 3:49 am

    Can’t agree more. I used to have a long to-do list, but I never get all of the tasks done.
    Like what you mentioned through your ‘masterlist’.
    I have then learned to prioritize and work on those that will yield the most result.
    Usually only a few important tasks. 🙂

    • Avatar

      Erin Elizabeth Wells

      Jul 11, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks Shawn. Yeah, it’s a common confusion and frustration for folks. This distinction can make a huge difference to your emotional attitude, which by extension improves your overall productivity.
      After all, it’s a lot easier to stay productive when you feel focused and energetic… rather than frustrated and depressed ;).

  4. Avatar

    Chris

    Jul 9, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Great article thanks, I tend to break my 5 year goals into annual goals, into monthly, into weekly then into daily tasks, as not to confuse the daily tasks with my “Master List”

    When do you set your tasks, the night before or in the morning?

    • Avatar

      Erin Elizabeth Wells

      Jul 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Honestly, morning or evening… it’s your choice. But, I do encourage you to choose a consistent time.
      Many of my clients like to choose their 4 tasks at the end of the work day for the following day. Personally, I’m a fan of first thing in the morning when I have a better sense of my personal energy level and what I’m feeling inspired about.
      My task management system (www.Asana.com) also sometimes pops some items to the top at the beginning of the day that I hadn’t thought about previously, so I weigh those against items that I might have previously considered priorities.

  5. Avatar

    Tim Denning

    Jul 9, 2016 at 3:51 am

    Erin thank you for this simple distinction between a “master list” and a “today” list. The two lists have definitely been confused for me on many occasions.

    • Avatar

      Erin Elizabeth Wells

      Jul 11, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      You’re welcome, Tim.
      Glad this distinction was helpful to you! It can really improve your attitude and enjoyment of each day :).
      Warmly,
      Erin

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Success Advice

5 Things You Can Learn From The 5am Club by Robin Sharma

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It has been said by Robin Sharma, “5 AM is the time of least distraction, highest human glory, and greatest peace.” This also happens to be the central idea or the core value he has discussed in his book, ‘The 5 Am Club.’ Speaking of early mornings, at what time do you wake up? Are you annoyed by the fact that you wake up on the edge of time and then rush to work in haste? 

The life lessons put forth by The 5 AM Club are exactly the learning and motivation you need to challenge your complacency. In your race against time, you may not have the time to read this fabulous book. So, we have summed up the key book’s takeaways for your convenience.

1. The vigor of waking up early

This is what the book’s most fundamental advice to everyone is. Waking up at 5 am every day can work wonders to avert failures and make success a natural habit. When we wake up at 5 am, we have more time on our hands than others. Besides, this is when we have minimum interruptions and maximum powerfulness of the mind. 

To add, the early morning peace is priceless! You can schedule your most important tasks of the day between 5am, and 8am. This book teaches us in the simplest way, how we can train our mind and strengthen it to deliver the highest productivity by waking up early. This energy that you have when you wake up in the morning and the few additional hours in your day are what serve as perfect ingredients for success.

“The secret to productivity is simplicity.” – Robin Sharma

2. The power of finding the right balance in life

The book talks about a precious lesson of finding the right balance within. We often talk about the need for mindfulness and achieving the right mindset to perceive things. But this book goes a few steps ahead of our usual approach to life. It highlights the vitality of mindset and introduces the concepts of heartset, healthset, and soulset.

These terms may seem new, but they are self-explanatory. The idea of heartset endorses the essentialness of emotional stability and well-being. Next, the perspective of healthset indicates the need to look after physical health. At last, soulset is an attribute of spirituality. As explained in this book, success prospects can be enhanced big time by achieving the right balance between these internal virtues.

3. The iconic 20/20/20 modus operandi

What is the first thing you will do if you start waking up at 5 am every day? Did you ever spare a thought about it? This book has the answer to this question, and you will be convinced that it is a great way to begin your day!. The author suggests that you should split the first hour of the day into three equal parts of 20 minutes each.

In the first 20 minutes of the day, you should prioritize your physical fitness and exercise. In the next 20 minutes, you should energize your soul and spirit via self-reflection and soulful meditation. This will prepare you for the rest of the day and will enable you to bolster your commitment and focus. In the last 20 minutes of the first hour, you should read and learn. But what are you going to read about in those 20 minutes? Read about successful people and their inspiring journeys to the pinnacle of success.

4. The significance of a proper sleep schedule

In this book, there is a mention of ‘a ferocious global sleep recession’, which is intriguing and enlightening. It hints at the state of sleep deprivation that this world is sinking into gradually. We often associate success and hard work with the notion of staying up all night and testing our endurance beyond limits. But that is not the right approach to accomplishing success, or rather, it is a flawed methodology.

Sometimes even if we do not have any critical work, we keep whiling our night time on social media or television. What are we gaining from it is the real question, and I am afraid the answer is nothing! We learn from this book that it is critical to look after your sleep cycle and start your day at 5 am afresh. Sleep and rest are indispensable for mental and physical well-being, or your productivity will decline.

“If you want to have the results only 5% have, you must be willing to do and think like only 5% do and think.” – Robin Sharma

5. The art of evolving

The book sheds light on the need to be spiritual and master self-reflection. However, do you realize the purpose that the routine of reflection each morning serves? The idea is to keep learning, keep reflecting on the mistakes and keep evolution an ongoing process. You should evolve every day and strive to be a better version of yourself every day. So, one of your primary goals after waking up should be to reflect on your actions and missed opportunities of the previous day.

To recapitulate, The 5 AM Club is a must-read book if you are a passionate reader. It has the prowess and charm to refurbish your perception of life altogether. Even if you cannot read the book for some reason, make sure you incorporate the above key takeaways into your life. By starting your day at 5 am, you can rediscover your lost soul and enthusiasm, and you would not have complaints to make about the lack of time. If you can own your mornings, you can go places on the ladder of success, for excuses are only for those who are not committed to their goals.

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