There’s nothing more soul-crushing than sitting in an office plowing through paperwork. It’s part of running a business and needs to be done—I get that. But I can feel it sucking the creative life out of me by the minute.
When I feel overwhelmed by my 147-item to-do list, I muscle past the monotony by implementing the 20/80 rule. It’s pretty simple. Ask yourself:
- Which 20 percent of my to-do list creates 80 percent of my positive results?
- Which 20 percent of my to-do list creates 80 percent of my stress and negative energy?
The goal here is to come up with a short list of items that you’ll feel really good about knocking off your to-do list, either because they’ll have a big implications for your business or because you’ve finished something you’ve been dreading. Essentially, you’re trying to identify the biggest domino. Knock it over and you’ll start a chain reaction.
Once you’ve answered those questions, make a new to-do list that’s no more than three to five items deep. Sometimes, I also add some emotional objectives, like not feeling rushed and pressured, because I know that when I’m going through my day with those objectives in mind, my stress level naturally drops. Either way, having this shorter, more doable set of goals gets me out of my rut.
The payoff comes when I finish one of these key tasks, because there’s a high return on investment. It energizes and motivates me for the next item on my list.
You might be wondering: How do you motivate yourself to tackle something from the second bucket—items that cause stress? It’s a great question. No, you can’t ignore them. In fact, they’re usually causing stress because you’ve been ignoring them too long.
If my new, shorter to-do list has tasks that I don’t enjoy—like firing an employee, which inevitably has to be done—I also give myself a couple of shorter, easier tasks to get my juices flowing. For example, maybe I’ll:
- Return a phone call to somebody I really like.
- Sign off on a new obstacle course design.
- Do a set of burpees in a new environment.
- Go for a short run.
Whatever it is, I start and finish it and get that rush of accomplishment, and then I’m ready for the bigger task that I’m not looking forward to.
Remember: You can’t go wrong, both in life and in business, by facing challenges head on. A watched domino will never fall.
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