Or 11 keys to getting things done without letting your to-do list own your fucking soul…
In today’s super-speed-ball world of instant connection, lightning-fast information, and obsession with non-stop “doing,” checking messages, and tweeting, we’re all so busy that no one’s actually stopped to smell a rose since 1974.
We run around like soccer moms on Adderall and energy drinks constantly trying to get to the next thing…and the thing we’re doing now, whether it’s flossing or fornicating, is oftentimes just a means to an end.
Ok, well maybe not always the fornicating, but just about everything else is.
Check email, call potential clients, take care of that customer service issue, write a reference for Tom, stop by the cleaners, stop by the pharmacy, pick up almond milk, return phone calls, move that thing, clean up that other thing, pay the bills, call the tax guy, get the oil changed, feed the kids, and clean the cat box …and we haven’t even had a chance to write one page of our book today or start the project we’ve been dying to get up and running.
If you’re like me, you’ve checked 7 things off the list today, but the other 97 items are still sitting there flipping you the bird with big-ass smirks on their tiny to-do-list faces. They know with arrogance and certainty that you ain’t getting to them today, and you probably ain’t getting to at least 93 of them tomorrow, and by the time you DO knock 10 or 20 of em’ off the list, they’ll be replaced with 30 or 40 more.
The list owns you…
Its claws squeeze your gut into a knot so tight you can barely breathe while its tentacles leech you of irreplaceable time and precious energy, rob you of time with friends and family, and stop you from reading those 42 unread books that have been collecting dust on your shelf as well as all that awesome stuff you long to do deep in that big ol’ mushy heart of yours…like your passions, projects, and hobbies.
I know the obsession with “getting stuff done” better than I know my best friend…the constant need to do more and feeling that it’s just never enough.
I’ve spent more time trying to get shit done than I have with my family. It’s sad, but true.
And if you’re like me, you know that you’re the only one responsible for your success—and that if you don’t get shit done, you’ll be the one responsible for your failure.
And no matter what the Flaw of Attraction Fundamentalists would have you believe, you gotta get shit done if you wanna succeed…Grandpa Manifestation just ain’t gonna show up at your front door with a bicycle for you to ride away to your dream life on just ‘cuz you got all warm and fuzzy while you masturbated and thought about it coming true. (No pun intended, but it’s kinda cool it worked out that way.)
I’ve known a number of disgruntled visualizers who thought they could just sit around, think happy thoughts about what they wanted, and raise their “vibrational frequency” and it would all come true ‘cuz the people from The Secret said it would. I mean, it worked for Oprah, right?
Now, I’m all for focusing on what you want and feeling good about it, and I’ve actually had great results using these kinds of strategies—but the diehard Flaw of Attraction people often leave out two necessary components.
When creating the reality you want, on top of getting a clear vision of it and keeping an optimistic attitude that it’s coming true, the real key is to take action.
And if you can take actions that help people, that’s when the real power sets in.
I had this one friend who would sit around and meditate and visualize the life he wanted for 3-4 hours a day…the dude was dedicated. Well, after a few years of this he ended up so miserable he wanted to blow his brains out. He was depressed, miserable, and frustrated that his life sucked and that he was stuck with the same ol’ shitty life.
NOTHING was coming true for him.
The only action he took was sitting around feeling “joyous” while he thought about all the cool shit he wanted, and the only person he helped was himself. (And it turns out, he helped himself right into a life he did not want.)
To stay ahead of the game (and sometimes just to stay afloat), we need to do the stuff that gets us from A to B and onto Z, and wearing a magic crystal around our neck just ain’t gonna cut it.
Now, like you, my plate isn’t just full of the the awesome stuff I wanna do…the stuff that puts a cute little twinkle in my butt and makes my heart soar like an eagle. Nor is it filled with nothing but the the big “high leverage” activities that drive things forward. It’s also overloaded with a large list of responsibilities…errands, financial stuff, legal stuff, tax stuff, commitments to friends and family, and taking care of my health, my fitness, my sanity, and so on.
Sometimes, it can seem like too damn much to manage, too much to control, and too much to do.
I can recall more than a few days where my list screamed at me first thing in the morning, all the way until I laid my head on the pillow at night.
The list can “own” me IF I let it. My OCDTGSD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder To Get Shit Done) can become all-consuming.
And trust me, the fucking list has owned me on more than one occasion; as anyone who’s been spent enough time around me can vouch, sometimes it can get the best of me….
…IF I let it…
…Like when I’m hungry, haven’t trained, or have had too much caffeine and my lawyer, bookkeeper, or tax lady drops some “urgent” shit-bomb on my lap, leaving shrapnel all over the top of my neatly organized task list. (Well, the lists start neatly organized at least, but by the time I’m through with them they usually end up looking like a glob of doodles, scribbles, and cryptic gibberish that only an alien could read.)
If I’m not careful, it’s pretty easy for me to revert to a Human Doing instead of a Human Being.
Now, shit’s gotta get done and I’m all for getting it done, a lot of it…
…the key is to not be CONSUMED by it and with it.
The goal is to remain free from the anxiety and tension that come from attachment to our to-do lists, while still moving ourselves in the direction we wanna go.
Here Are 11 Things To Help You Get Shit Done Without Letting Your To-Do List Own Your Soul…
There IS a way out.
1. Dive in headfirst to one thing at a time
We run around doing things constantly, thinking two or three steps ahead and planning how we’re gonna do the next things we need to do after we finish the thing we’re doing right now.
We become consumed with what’s next.
I once asked Corey Taylor, front man for both metal band Slipknot and hard rock band Stone Sour, what it feels like to be on stage performing.
He explained how it forced him to be fully engaged and completely consumed in the music. He described what sounded to me like a place of no thought. It wasn’t about thinking how he’s gonna perform the next two songs, or what he’s doing after the show, or the interview he’s doing in the morning, it’s about right now, giving everything he fucking has to the song he’s performing at the moment.
A big key to getting through your list without being stressed and obsessed by the volume of tasks you wanna accomplish is to simply do just one thing at a time, bringing complete focus into the present moment and giving the task at hand 110% of your attention.
Worrying about the other 17 things on the list and focusing on the gap between where you are now and what you wanna get done will cause your blood pressure to skyrocket like Bernie Madoff’s on reckoning day.
Instead of losing your peace in the list of shit that sits before you, dive in 100% to each task, focusing on just one thing at a time, giving the item at hand your complete and undivided attention.
Not only will you dodge the stress bullet, but you’ll most likely better do the things you’re doing.
If the task is part of a larger project, don’t worry about getting from A to Z—just focus on A. Then when it’s time, do B. You don’t have to worry about how you’re gonna get all the way to Z…just start with fucking A. (Again, no pun intended…I must be on a pun roll right now.. “Pun Roll”…damn, that’s making me hungry for sushi.)
Sometimes we look at the giant mountain ahead of us instead of just taking one step at a time. When we break things down to one single step, and focus on just that step, before concerning ourselves with the next 7 steps, we get more done, feel better about what we’re doing, and do a better job of doing it all.
Chop wood, carry water
2. Give up the illusion of control
Trying to control the results of what we’re doing can freak us the fuck out. The key is to just do your absolute best at the task at hand, and if it’s an important task, give it your all, but remain unattached to the results…just let those tortilla chips fall where they may, even if they end up knocking over the salsa jar.
And sometimes things are gonna blow up, break, and leak all over the floor and make a mess, probably even getting on a few people’s feet right before you accidentally step on their toes. It’s just the way things are, and the more you’re moving into new territories and possibilities, the more mistakes you’re gonna make and things you’re gonna screw up…that’s how we learn.
The more you can accept the chaos, doing your best to learn from it and move on, the happier you’ll be and better you’ll be at handling these situations as they happen.
If you’re into any kind of spiritual teachings or lead any kind of spiritual life, you probably know you’re not in control of anything anyway. This level of trust in a higher process can be damn comforting. Going at things with a “Thy Will, Not My Will” attitude, even if you have no fucking clue what’s running the show here, is one of the most helpful things you can do to stay in a state of something resembling peace while knocking things off your task list.
3. Learn from the observations of Vilfredo Pareto
Anyone who’s dipped their toes into the waters of personal development, self help, or lifestyle design knows about the Pareto principle. However, very few of us live it on a daily basis. When we do, not only are we happier, but we’re much more effective as well.
According to Wikipedia, “The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients” – Wikipedia
If you wanna get more done and have less stress, do the opposite of what the majority does and spend 80% of your time on the 20% of activities that get you 80 plus percent of your results.
Many of the things we “think” we need to do are just north of useless and get us very little of the results we want in life. Once we discover our 20% that gets us our 80% results, we can focus on and more fully give ourselves to that 20%, and feel better about what we’re spending our time on cuz we don’t have the stress of the 163 things we think we need to do weighing us down.
A while back I was a bit overwhelmed and wasn’t sure what I should be focusing on business-wise.
I have two businesses, or niches if you will. One is the kind of stuff you’re reading on this blog, which feels like it’s what I’m meant to be doing…I’m not exactly sure where I plan on taking it, but I do know writing this type of stuff is my favorite thing to do in the world.
And then I have my other niche, which is where I teach marketing strategies to fitness professionals (KickBackLife.com) … and that’s the business that pays most of the bills.
Both are online information businesses.
I was so confused about where I should be spending my time…YouTube, search engine optimization, product launches, press releases, delegating, social media, podcasting, creating new marketing funnels, setting-up auto-responder sequences, upsells, cross-sells, JV’s, getting affiliates, interviews, guest posts, webinars…and on and on and motherfucking on ’til the end of time.
Finally, after realizing there’s no way I’m gonna be able to even get to a quarter of this stuff I thought I needed to do unless I hire a team of ten people (which is about 8 or 9 more people than I wanna deal with), I took a good hard look at where I am, where I wanna go, and what’s doing the best job of getting me there.
It’s basically these four things that get me 80% of my results…
1. Writing blog posts that inspire, educate, and entertain people in a way that has a profound impact on their lives. When I do this, I am also creating a lot of the seed content for my first book.
2. Getting leads. All businesses need new customers, but before selling to people it’s best to get them to raise their hands and show some kind of interest in what you have and then build a trusting relationship with them. When someone raises their hand in interest, they are a lead. I spend a little time getting my stuff in front of the right people who wanna raise their hands.
3. Writing email newsletters for my fitness trainer niche that inspire, entertain, and educate.
4. The other big thing I do every day that helps my business is that I like to read for 1–2 hours each day. For one, just the simple act of reading, I believe, can help to make me a better writer.
And secondly, a lot of the things I read make my life, and work life, better. I’ll read anything from books on writing, stuff to help me market myself on the internet, personal development, spirituality, philosophy, psychology, humor, biographies, and fiction.
A.B.R. — Always be reading.
That’s it: that’s my 20% that get me the results I want, and fortunately a lot of it is based around writing, one of my favorite things to do (=
The other 20% of the time is spent between emails (one of my least favorite things in the world), managing my tiny little team (a web guy and an assistant), checking stats, nurturing relationships, posting a few things on Facebook, and answering blog comments.
Since getting down to that core 20%, not only have I been way more effective, but I also have a lot less stress and confusion as to what the fuck I’m supposed to be doing each day.
This strategy alone cut my to-do list down to a fraction of what it was.
4. Accept that there is no “done”
As long as you’re breathing, you’re never getting it all done. You’re only done when you’re dead.
I’ve often fretted over trying to get everything done, so I can either…
A. Get to the stuff I wanna do
B. Get to where I’ve done everything, so I can just kick back, relax, and not have to do shit
The latter of which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to—and it’s been my experience that when I do get everything done, my mind plays this funny little game where it comes up with all kinds of new shit to, and I get sucked right back in. It’s like hurrying to get everything done, and then when it’s all done and you ain’t got nothing to do, you just wanna do more stuff.
Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.
Michael Corleone – The Godfather
We will never gonna get it all done because the to-do list never ends.
It’s a race with no end in sight, and all you know is that you’re behind and need to catch up. But the truth is, you’re making perfect time, there is no finish line, and you’re already at the ultimate destination…right here, right now.
The more you can embrace the perfect state of incompleteness, the more you’ll be cool with understanding you can only get done today what you can get done today and there’s no point in shaking yourself down ‘cuz you don’t think you did enough.
Just do what you can do, focus on what you’re doing right now, and ease back into the seat of your being.
5. Replace “need to” and “got to” with “get to”
When it comes to the art of the getting things done, “need to” is a life-sucking mentality…”Need to do this, Need to do that” creates undue amounts of stress and anxiety.
If you were in the middle of the desert and hadn’t had a drink of water for a few days, you would NEED to get your ass to some water.
That’s a need.
But almost everything on our to-do lists that we think we “need to” do, we actually “get to” do.
We get to pay the bills, so we can enjoy things like water and electricity and cable television. We get to work out so we can carve out a better existence for ourselves. We get to go to the doctor so we don’t die from some shit that would have killed or permanently jacked us up just 100 years ago. We get the luxury of stopping by the store to pick up just about any damn thing to eat we can think of.
We get to look at items on our to-do list as things we get to do rather than need to do…if we want to, that is—the choice is all ours.
The mind loses its ability to focus when you stay engaged in an activity for too long without giving yourself a little break. Even 10 minutes every 90–120 minutes makes a world of difference.
Working too long without giving yourself a little breather is like giving your creative mind a punch in the gut…and our gut/intuition is where our best ideas flow from…but not when we’re overworked and stressed.
So many brilliant and artistic minds, whether painters, composers, writers, or great businesspeople, talk about the importance of talking daily breaks, and how many of their biggest breakthroughs ( notice the word “break” in there ) come to them when they’re doing nothing or are engaged in some sort of passive activity that takes them out of their minds, like showering or going for a walk.
Personally, many of my best ideas come when meditating…when I’m NOT thinking. My best stuff doesn’t come from me at all, it comes from beyond me.
Which leads me to number 7…
Meditation makes you feel happier and more calm and increases your ability to handle stress, to focus, and to be creative.
I know it seems strange that just sitting there doing nothing can actually make you happier and more productive (and more happy to produce), but anyone who meditates will most likely tell you that it does.
As humans we don’t wanna do nothing, we wanna do…something…anything! We’re fucking doers, dammit! And just sitting around breathing in and out or focusing on some third eye seems like a waste of time. Wouldn’t it be better to knock a few items off the task list instead of just “being”?
There’s something about doing nothing that trumps just about everything else we’ve got strategically laid out on our neatly organized, micro-managed to-do lists.
Some would argue they’re too “busy” to meditate…but what many people don’t understand is that time spent in meditation actually saves time by allowing you to more fully engage in the rest of what you do, making you much more focused and productive as you venture into the choppy waters of “getting shit done.”
8. Go do something physical
Our bodies are meant to move, our pores are meant to sweat, our muscles are meant to contract and stretch, and our blood is meant to flow.
Plain and simply, we were meant to move.
Whether this be a brisk walk, going for a run, mountain biking, some good hard physical labor, playing a sport like basketball, racquetball or soccer, doing some hill sprints, or hitting the iron…
…there’s something magical that happens when you get your heart rate up that can carry you through the entire day, allowing you to bring more focus, as well as a better energy, into what you do.
Anyone who trains can vouch. Endorphins, serotonin, worked muscles, and clear mind … sheeeeeeeeeeet.
9. Get away from the list
Shut down the laptop, cell phone, text messages, Facebook, and email. Lock your list in a drawer and completely ignore it. Pay no attention as it bellows for your return. Just’ cuz it calls for us don’t mean we need to come running.
My favorite method for getting away from the to-do list is to take a spontaneous road trip.
And don’t do one of those typical looky-loo style vacations where you run around and stay on a schedule of shit you’re gonna do and see. Save that shit for the tourists.
The idea is to get away from the compulsive doing and just be. Sure, you’re always gonna be “doing” something, but just go with your gut and see where it takes you, no schedule or task list required.
Sometimes I just wake up and go “fuck it, time for a spontaneous road trip,” and a few hours later I’m driving, family in tow, and we’re off…no idea when we’ll back or exactly where we’re going, we just drive and stop where we stop.
Last time we drove up to Big Sur, a place so beautiful it makes you question what you’re doing living where you live and doing what you do. No wonder guys like Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller loved it there so much.
And when I get back from one of these trips, I’m always refreshed and excited to get back on track and get some serious shit done.
While balance may not help you hit your goals faster, it will help you hit them happier.
Seriously, who cares if you reach your goals if your health is horrible, your body weak, your relationships bad, your sex life in the tank, and you’re as stressed-out as a meth cook with the DEA knocking at your door?
If you’re anything like me, it’s easy for you to get out of balance. You’ll go OCD extreme on something doing like a world champ, while the rest of your life goes to shit. Knowing I’m like this, I purposely schedule in things to keep balance in my life. Doing so helps me make sure things don’t get too far out of whack.
It’d be awesome to make tens of millions of dollars…but who cares if you’re ill or don’t spend time with those you love?
And being in perfect shape all the time might be cool as fuck, but if you have no social life ‘cuz you you spend all your time consumed with eating like a scientist, working out for hours on end, and obsessing about how you look?…not fucking worth it.
Not that you can’t make tens of millions or have a year round six-pack and at the same time lead a balanced life…but more often than not, what’s important gets sacrificed while chasing the obsessions.
At the end of your life, are you gonna look back and wish you looked better and made more money, or are you gonna wish you spent more time with friends and family and had more awesome experiences?
I don’t know what it’s like to look back on a life, but I do know where I’m placing my bets.
And this brings me to probably the most important one of all…
11. Remember, you could die tonight
You could even die in 20 minutes. I’ve had many perfectly healthy friends who were alive one minute and dead the next, from something they never saw coming.
Right now is all you got—it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed. In the grand scheme of things, all this shit you’re doing don’t matter much anyway. What’s important are things like how much you loved, so don’t lose sight of this. It’s good to have to-dos and goals and to get shit done, but you’re gonna die, and you don’t know when.
So don’t waste right now stressed out on shit that doesn’t actually matter one bit.
To-do lists can own us, and the more technology we have that’s meant to make our lives easier and more connected with each other, the more shit it seems we need to do. We are busy as fuck.
Get stuff done, but own your to-do list, don’t let IT own you.
Enjoy being a human being, instead of being nothing more than a stressed-out human doing.
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