Most people have goals in life. To lose weight. Make more money. Finish an important project. Improve a relationship. But we do not always make as much progress on our goals as we want to.
Most people also use lists in life. Checklists are familiar. A grocery list, a travel list, etc. And of course, we usually create at least one task list for the work we do.
A task list does not always lead to more productivity. In fact, a long list of tasks seems to lead us to accomplish more simple/easy/quick tasks. The harder tasks, often the ones that would help us reach our goals, are not accomplished. We may find ourselves checking off a lot of items but not making a lot of progress on our goals. Or, worse yet, we start pushing off the task list or eventually ignoring it altogether.
I have adopted a better way to use task lists to avoid procrastination. The process goes something like this:
- Each evening, spend a few minutes planning your most important tasks (MITs) for the next day.
- Ensure at least one of the MITs is the next, immediate, action you can take on your biggest goal.
- Accomplish the top MIT as early as possible the following day, preferably in the morning.
I have utilized this philosophy for years. It absolutely works. At work, this strategy has helped us deliver award-winning projects. For my side hustle, it has allowed me to juggle multiple projects and stay on top of every client deadline. For my personal life, it has helped me continue growing in the areas that ultimately matter most. Whatever your goals, I can vouch for this offense-minded process.
Along the way I have implemented a few of my own tweaks to the process:
- Make sure the top MIT is offense focused. Something you plan to make progress on your top goal. Not something set by somebody else.
- Finish at least one MIT before you check your email. Your MIT list is set by your goals. Email represents other people's goals.
- Do not plan your MITs too far ahead. It also helps to make sure the MITs are easily accomplished within one day.
- Keep the technology as simple as possible. You should not be fussing with complicated task lists. I use the Notes app on my iPhone, which syncs to my Mac.
- Do not add too many MITs. I usually have five or fewer.
Questions to ask when creating your tasks:
- Has something been nagging you? “I have been meaning to finish….”
- Do you have any recent regrets? “I haven’t been spending enough time with….”
- Is there something you are afraid of? “What if this project doesn’t work out….”
- What are my current goals and focus areas? Health? Family? Business? Writing? Etc.
No matter what the rest of the day holds, you can feel accomplished after completing at least one MIT each morning. And if you find yourself stuck in a rut later in the day, pull the list back out and see if you can tackle another MIT.