Creating a Better To-Do List
Allyson Lewis, founder of the 7 Minute Life, is a time management expert. Working with Innovate Arkansas, the 7 Minute Life is creating scalable training and technology to help companies develop a more productive workforce. Allyson says, “Employees don’t want to just get more done. They want to work with meaning and purpose. They want their work to matter.”
Allyson believes improving daily productivity begins with creating a better to-do list.
The first step to improving your time management is having a written DAILY plan of action to guide your steps. Here are three keys to optimizing your daily plan:
- Actually, write it out. Don’t go into the day with a bunch of loose intentions in your head. Inevitably, you will forget some important task. Furthermore, the process of writing clarifies your thoughts and produces a record of what you have already completed or have not yet finished.
- Start the day with your action plan in hand. You want to go to bed knowing what you are doing the next day. Otherwise, other people’s agendas will rapidly consume yours.
- Start with action steps from your values, purpose and goals. Don’t forget those priorities we talked about when writing your action plan. You can’t avoid the fact that there are some chores of life that just have to get done. Bills must be paid, groceries must be bought, laundry must be done, etc. But don’t start your list with these items.
How to Get Started – Create your 5 before 11 List
Hands down the most effective tool we have found to ensure that you start the day off focused on what matters most is a “5 Before 11” list. Every day write down 5 high value action steps that you will accomplish prior to 11 a.m.
These 5 items need to be actions that will move the needle of your life forward. These are actions that don’t just knock something out of the way, they yield the results you are looking for in life.
This is an excerpt from Allyson’s book, The 7 Minute Solution: Time Strategies to Prioritize, Organize & Simplify your Life at Work & at Home, that defines “High Value Activities”:
Your Highest -Value Activities
Enhancing productivity and increasing meaning is not merely a matter of getting more done. The secret to true productivity and meaning comes from getting the right things done by giving your highest value activities the highest priority. It seems so obvious that it should hardly be called a secret, but how many times have you spent all day buried in being busy and yet felt like you achieved virtually nothing?
To truly understand this concept let’s take a moment and look at how you currently feel you need to spend your time. If you already have a to-do list for today, I invite you to get it right now. If you do not have a to-do list, then take a few moments and write on a blank sheet of paper any task you feel you should do today.
Once you have your list examine it through the lens of these three questions:
1) What is the pay off?
Analyze the payoff of every task on your list. Your highest-value tasks will have a measurable payoff directly related to your values, purpose, or goals. Which tasks actual generate more leads for your business? Close more sales? Complete a project? Push you over a significant hurdle? Eliminate a critical obstacle? Strengthen a relationship with a key client? Or, allow you to live into one of your deepest desires? Those are the tasks you want to target with aggressive attention at the front end of your day. You want to invest in those activities before any other activities. Even if all you do is a single micro-action on those tasks, address them before all others.
2) Which activities should you not be doing?
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself about every activity you engage in. Have you said “yes” to things you shouldn’t have? Are some tasks convenient ways for you to feel busy, while not really producing many results? Are there tasks you could delegate or pay someone else to do? What would the consequence be if you ignored some activities or completely eliminated them? Is that an acceptable cost to pay? Keep in mind that every moment invested in a low-value task is a moment that you lose to spend on those activities that bring you meaning, joy, and forward movement.
3) If you could only do five things on your list, what would they be?
This question will be much easier to answer if you spent time on the first two questions. It will also force you to rapidly and definitively define what is most important. Those five items will be your highest priorities. Those five items are the first five activities that you should act upon the moment you walk through the door of your office.
You can drive your highest-value activities to the top of your priority list every day using a simple planning strategy that I like to call 5 before 11. Your 5 before 11 is a list of five high-value actions you strive to achieve before 11 a.m. Using a 5 before 11 list will condition you to strategically take control of your day. It will help you bypass ineffective organizational techniques and achieve greater results with less effort. Doing so will ensure that every day you are investing time in the activities that most engage you with life. A 5 before 11 list is one of the foundational 7 Minute micro-actions that will empower you to prioritize, organize, and simplify your life.
The Power of Micro-Actions & High Value 5 before 11 List
High value action steps do not necessarily have to be large action steps. In fact, learning to consistently act on micro-actions (simple activities that take 7 minutes or less) is a big part of revolutionary change in your life.
Imagine how different your life could be in just one week if you took five high value action steps around your core goals. At the end of one week this would be 35 steps forward. At the end of 90 Days that is 450 positive steps forward!