What is the rule?
We all know our To-Do lists can get long. Very long. But what if we could get something done before putting it on the list?
The faster we can get things through our brains and scratched off our internal memory banks, the more room we will have for holding onto the bigger, more important items.
If a task presents itself and we know we can complete it in less than two minutes, just do it. Rather than putting it on a list, we should just get it done right now and leave more room in our brains for more important tasks.
What if I can’t get it done right now?
When ideas or things we don’t want to forget pop into our brains, it’s best to record them by writing them down or putting them in our phones. (My assistant keeps a small notebook and pen on her bedside table for her middle-of-the-night revelations.) This very act allows our brains to return to a peaceful state rather than a “worried-I’m-going-to-forget-to-do-something” state.
This act on it’s own will give us stronger willpower, because our attention won’t be focused on remembering something but rather what we are currently doing.
Paring down the list
Our To-Do list can get long, we already agree on that. But what do we do when the list gets too long? Here is the key:
Do it, Delegate it, Defer it or Drop it
It’s that simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. It helps us process information without taxing our willpower as much. Here is a great worksheet to help you out!
Whether it’s emails, phone calls, tasks at home or projects that need to get done, we can filter the items through this list. Do it usually refers to something we can complete in less than two minutes. If that is the case, we can simply do it now, and it doesn’t even need to go on the list.
If it’s something someone else can do as good as us or better, we should delegate it. I personally take it a step farther in my own application and say that everything that can be done by someone else should be delegated. Obviously, if that person does a poor job, I am not recommending that you delegate it.
The 80% rule can come into play here. If someone can do it at least 80% as good as we can, then we should delegate it. Our ultimate goal should be to complete projects and tasks that only we can do best.
Assign a date and time in the future to complete this particular task. I think this is a potential slippery slope, but clearly now can’t be the right time to do everything. Planning is required.
We all have things we want to do. These are tasks or projects that actually do not have to be done, and therefore, we can drop them from the list completely. This means we won’t consider them again. This helps us in making less decisions, which can make us more successful.
Now that we’ve determined how to shorten our To-Do list, how can we be more successful at getting those things done that are still on our list? Here are some short and simple boosters:
- Start small
- Get enough sleep
- Eat better
- Maintain some order
- Have rules to live by (Don’t know where to start? Check this out!)
- Get religion
- Spend quality time with others
- Share goals with others
Fixing our willpower affects others
If we work on our willpower, we can have a positive effect on others. How? We are social animals. We aren’t meant to hide in our houses and never socialize with others. Clearly, some of us are more outgoing than others. However, none of us can survive and thrive by ourselves.
Willpower helps us do the right things and stick to our plans. The right things and our plans will typically include achieving our vision for ourselves. But it should also include how we are dealing with others.
As we work on our willpower, this “muscle” becomes stronger and we form habits that will invariably lead to happiness, or rather, authentic joy. Why? Activities like exercising, getting better sleep and praying all contribute to improving happiness as well as self-control.
Lack of self-control causes temper-tantrums and low self-esteem, as well as poor decisions that affect ourselves and others. Being in complete control is a virtue, but of course, just being in control doesn’t make us virtuous. Our decisions also have to have a virtue component.
The trump card (no, I’m not referring to Donald Trump)
The beauty of internal willpower is that no one can take it away from us. We decide. No one else decides for us. If we give in to a victim or martyr mentality, this is a choice we are making. We don’t have to think these thoughts.
We choose to think what we want and we can then do what we need to do to achieve our goals. Most of us have great freedom to do whatever it takes to live the life we want to live. Even those who are not provided external freedom still have the internal freedom to make the most of their current situations.
Our intellects and our wills are two aspects of human beings that separate us from other creatures on earth. Our will is our trump card. “Will is our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world. It is our final trump card.” -Ryan Holliday, The Obstacle is the Way
It’s what spurs on the Olympic athlete to shave off one more second from their time and it’s what allows the entrepreneur to choose the pain of debt and start-up stress with the hope of a future payoff. It’s what allows us to decide to get up early to pray, exercise, study (or all three). None of this would be possible without a strong willpower.
The lazy mind
Essentially, our minds are lazy. We can be easily affected by others’ opinions. This is sometimes called the “halo effect.” This is when we exaggerate some initial positive aspect of someone or some decision that then colors our overall objectivity in making a rational decision.
A great example is in making hiring decisions, specifically when interviewing someone. It isn’t atypical for an executive to interview someone and then tell the next interviewer something positive about the experience.
“She’s sharp,” or “he’s a real go-getter” can have an effect on the next interviewer before they even lay eyes on the potential hire. (I have a unique way to help make executives more effective in this process-for more information and a free personality quiz for you and all your employees, click here.)
The key with the halo effect is to stop and think of all the things that could be biasing your judgment.
Challenge #7: Check out your To-Do list. (If you’ve never made one, now might be the time to start) Find something on the list that can be done in less than two minutes and DO IT. Then find something on the list you can delegate and find someone to DO IT!
Then identify something on the list that you can defer to later and choose a date and time to DO IT. And finally, find something on the list that really does not ever have to be done and DELETE IT. (and forget about it-don’t feel guilty about not doing it!) Leave me a comment telling me what you are doing and how it made you feel!
Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas.
For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Doug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available as an e-book now, or pre-order the paperback!