Need to be more productive? Learn how to write a Success List

Want to make REALLY impressive progress towards your goals? Learn why to-do lists are fatally flawed and how to write a Success List instead.

If there’s one topic that always gets us excited, it’s productivity. Let’s face it, as mums we don’t have endless hours in a day to spend on our business, so by necessity need to find ever-smarter ways of working.

So we were delighted to stumble upon the number one bestseller The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan recently.

The roots of success lie in Pareto’s Principle

And one idea that really resonated with us was a Success List. We’ve played around with lots of lists over the years – from a straightforward to-do list, to a done list, and even created our own Power List. But we liked the simplicity and principle of the Success List so decided to share it with you.

The roots of the Success List lie in the well-known concept of Pareto’s Principle – the idea that 80% of our achievements will be due to just 20% of our efforts.

Taking this idea to a practical extreme, it basically encourages you to take a red pen to your daily to-do list and edit it down to a concentrated formula for success. Here’s how it works.

To-do lists are fatally flawed

How often do you make a list for the day and simply add things to it as you think of them? And then, as you get ready to work your way through it, you simply start at the top?

For most of us, this is the way we approach our to-do lists, and it’s fatally flawed. Why? Because, if you take into account Pareto’s Principle, not all tasks on your list are equal. Some may indeed get you tantalisingly closer to your eventual goal, while others will simply eat up time without taking you any further forward.

A Success List is a to-do list on steroids

Instead, what you need to do is create a Success List. This is a to-do list on steroids. It strips out all the tasks that you could do that day, and leaves you focusing on the few you should do. The 20% of actions that will deliver 80% of your results.

So how do you do it? Start out by writing your to-do list as usual, then cross out anything that is a ‘could do’ – things that you could get done today, but the world wouldn’t stop if you didn’t. What you are left with is your ‘should do’ list.

What actually makes it onto your ‘should do’ list will depend on what your current goal is. If your goal, for example, is to get your business organised and your accounts in order, then anything relating to invoice or admin would count as a ‘should’. But if your current focus is to grow your customer base, activities around marketing and social media would have a higher priority.

Pick tasks that MUST be done

The idea is to be left with a handful of tasks that genuinely need to be done that day, or will significantly increase your chances of reaching your big goal.

But don’t just stop there. Now you have your ‘should do’ list, you apply the same tactic again, whittling it down to the top 20% of those tasks, and putting them at the top. If you want to go one step further, pick THE single most important task from your list and put this at the very top.

Now you have a Success List – a powerful to-do list that will enable you to concentrate all your energy on the 20% of activities that will deliver the majority of results, and not waste your efforts on tasks that will lead nowhere fast.

More brilliant productivity tips

The One Thing has more brilliant advice on being productive every day:

  • Don’t be busy, be productive – don’t con yourself that because you’re busy, you’re being productive. Instead recognise the difference between the two and focus on small things that deliver big results.
  • Find your ONE big task – keep narrowing your lists until you learn how to spot that ONE thing that will make the biggest impact on your achievement.
  • Be brave enough to say ‘not now’ – if you’re focusing on the important tasks, it is inevitable that some less vital ones will need to wait. So be brave enough to say (or think) ‘not now’, ‘I’ll do that later’, or even ‘I don’t need to do that’.
  • Don’t get caught in ticking off – it can be very satisfying to tick your way through a to-do list, but unless those tasks are getting you significantly closer to your goal, it’s a fool’s vanity. Think quality, not quantity and make each tick count.

Want more advice on productivity?

If you enjoyed this, you’ll also like these articles on productivity: