This week I read an article on Business Insider by an author who had interview many successful business owners and sports personalities trying to find out what made them differ from the normal everyday folk.
The big thing that he found was that the real successful people did not use ‘to do’ lists as you would expect. It has been thought that people who are seriously focused and ‘get things done’ would be following some kind of plan or ‘to do’ list.
Well it seems that this is not the case, they do have a plan but instead of having a list of tasks to do each day or week they prefer to have a schedule. They set aside specific chunks of time to work on stuff and they stick to these schedules religiously.
These schedules become a daily norm which they do not deviate from, they become their routine and they focus 100% on what they are doing in each specific time slot.
Many of those who were questioned were asked about to do lists and they replied that a to do list does not always mean success because the tasks themselves do not indicate which ones are a higher priority and that human nature means that most people will chose to do the easiest tasks first so that they can cross things off and appear to be ‘busy and productive’.
In fact many people might not do the tasks that are really hard at all; they may do the easy tasks then start on the next day’s easy tasks. If you completely ignore the tasks which are necessary and important because they are hard or a lot of work then you are not going to go forward.
The successful people prefer to do whatever needs doing in an allocated time; instead of focusing on a list of tasks for them their focus is having a time to get things done in, no matter what the tasks are.
Obviously they will have a plan of what they need to do otherwise how would they know what needs doing and in what order but instead of the actual list being their main focus throughout the day they prefer to give it their ‘all’ in short allocated time slots.
It kind of makes sense when you think about it, if you had a to do list for the day but had no time schedule or structure you would have a relaxed approach to the working day picking and choosing what tasks you do and when. This is where those harder but important tasks are overlooked.
If however you had a stricter time routine where you knew you had only 2 hours to get the new website live for example then you would use that time to do whatever needed doing to get the site live. Once those two hours are over then you know that you move onto something completely different.
Knowing that when the time slot is over you can move onto something else is also powerfully motivating. Unlike an open all day to do list which seems to be never ending, having time slots feels like you have just few specific things to focus on during the day and when that time is up it is over for another day.
Yes there probably is a lot of tasks to be done in that time slot depending on what the time slot is for but the successful people work 100% focused on the tasks at hand and try and get them all done in that time frame and it is finished so they can forget about them.
It is a bit like having a shopping list, that list is in effect a ‘to do’ list but of items to get, it is a ‘to get’ list and you can only use that list when you go shopping. So if you planned to go shopping between the hours of 2 and 4 one afternoon you would not worry about the list until you got to the supermarket and then you would focus all of your time and energy on getting those items, paying for those items, bagging them up and then getting them home.
Once you have got everything you no longer worry about the things on that list, even before you have got home and put the shopping away the list is redundant and no longer thought about.
This method can be used to make general life better, you might not want to build up a successful business but you could be wasting a lot of time and feel that life is not taking you to where you want to go.
Maybe you need to dump the to do lists and focus more on time slots and build a weekly schedule. Getting up at 7 am everyday no matter what happens or how you feel could do more for you than a to do list. Deciding what night and at what time you do the shopping could also be a huge benefit to your life.
Many people think that a strict time schedule is too ridged and robs life of its flexibility but this is often not the case. Being too flexible and relaxed means that a lot of valuable time is wasted and a lot of important things never get done and this can in fact be far more detrimental to your lifestyle than being rigid and time strict.
If you get things done efficiently you generally find that you have a more relaxed life with the opportunity to be more flexible. Non-productive people can often get overwhelmed, the things they need to do become a big drama when they are left to the last minute which really robs them of the flexibility they crave and results in them ‘getting their knickers in a twist’ as we say.
Here is an example time schedule for one day in the week (based on someone working from home with a life similar to mine)
7AM Alarm clock goes off, get out of bed.
7-8AM Gentle Yoga, stretching or meditation
8-9AM Have shower, get dressed and have breakfast.
9-10AM Go to office and answer emails and messages
10-12NOON Work on new article for website including researching, writing and making screenshots.
1-3PM Record video, edit video, add to websites.
3-5PM Social media sharing and interaction
5-6PM Dinner and wash pots
6-8PM Read, watch videos and research industry news
8-9PM Go to supermarkets and do the weekly food shop with the better half
9-11PM Chill in front of the TV with the better half
Parts of the time schedule will be the same for most if not all the days of the week such as the time I get up, do my exercise and eat but other things such as doing the weekly shop or recording videos might be a once a week thing so those tasks will be replace with other tasks on different days.
You might even chose to plan a lay in at the weekend, the idea is not to make your life restrictive and rigid to the point that it is miserable but make your lifestyle a more positive one which works better.
Successful sports people will go to the gym, the track or the swimming baths every day at the same time and practice their craft come rain or shine. Nothing stops them bar serious incidents, it is this schedule and sticking to it which turns them from people who enjoy a sport to a serious contender and a winner.
Knowing what they are doing each day at each time takes away the guessing that most non successful people generally do each day. A lot of people will spend their days trying to decide what they should do at set times of the days or even worse, do nothing and just idle the time away while wishing that there life was different.
If you are a person who uses to do lists you might want to take a few minutes and look at how you use them.
- Are you using them effectively?
- Are you doing the easy tasks and ignoring the others?
- Are you finding them long and demotivating?
If so then you might want to drop them and start to use a time schedule instead.
I shall bring this to a close and say that if you want a more productive and enjoyable life then you might be better off using a time schedule. The benefits that result from managing your time better might just surprise you.