For as long as I can remember I’ve created a daily to do list. Every morning I sit down to my coffee, read a bit, organize my thoughts and over the course of an hour or so create a full page of things to do.
Over the years my daily to do list has evolved. When I first started my list I’d write down everything that came to mind with no reflection on the importance of each task or return on time invested. In other words, I’d often write down what I should do rather than what was truly important to do.
Applying the 80/20 Principle to your Daily To Do List
Have you ever heard of the 80/20 principle? It explains that 20% of our time reaps of 80% of our results. That means that throughout your day only 20% of the things you do actually create the 80% of results you get. If you can narrow down the 20% that really benefits your life (work/personal), and focus more on them, you’ll create larger returns. A return could be more productivity, more clients/sales, more fulfilment with your life, more results, more rewards and so forth.
With the 80/20 principle in mind, I start my daily ‘to-do’ checklist with an anaolgy I read many years ago. The analogy is first posed as a question:
If you have a jar that needs to be filled with sand, pebbles, rocks and water what’s the best way to get the most amount of all items in the jar?
How would you answer that question? The best way to fill the jar is to put the rocks in first – they’re you’re core elements. They take up the most space and need to go in the jar before anything else. If you put sand, pebbles and water in you won’t be able to fit the maximum amount of rocks.
Start with Rocks on your Daily To Do List
Rocks are the elements in your life that are of supreme importance. Things like your health, your mental/emotional wellbeing, time with family/loved ones and key projects that are helping you to grow/expand/develop are all rocks. Notice that rocks are not all about work! If you don’t make time to plan your rocks (ex. ensure that you go to the gym) you won’t be able to apply the 80/20 principle at all – you’ll be unwell. So, rocks go first.
On my daily to do checklist I alway add my rocks to the very top of the list. These are must-do actions. For example, I always include ‘do Yoga, go for a run or exercise’ as that’s a key element I must have every day. I’ll also include the top 1 to 3 actions I can take that will bring my businesses forward the most. They might include making a phone call, setting up a new project or requesting a meeting. Relationships and my friends are very important to me (a rock) so planning events/visits are definitely rocks. They’re rocks because the return on my time invested in doing them will warrant higher returns that any other task.
Next Add Your Pebbles to your Daily To Do List
The next item on the list to add are the pebbles. These are all the supporting tasks to help my life/my work move forward. From a work perspective, they’re things like maintain my social media accounts, reply to emails, writing blogs and from a personal perspective, they’re things like calling/texting/FBing friends, drinking water (yes – I put that on my daily to do list as I often forget to do it!)
When pouring pebbles into the jar they all filter in around the rocks. The fill the crevices of space that the rocks fail to take up. After the pebbles comes the sand. When you pour the sand in, all the space between the rocks and pebbles gets permeated by the fine sand – it fills the cracks.
Use Sand to fill in the Cracks on your Daily To Do List
Sand elements are often necessary evils for me – things like, administration, bookkeeping, filing, organizing and so forth. And from a personal perspective I’ll add things like ‘clean the bathroom,’ or ‘do the laundry’.
Top your Daily To Do List off with Water!
Finally, the last element to get added is the water. This filters around everything in the jar and finds spaces in the tiniest areas. Water actions are often random things that pop into my mind. They’re actions that just seem to become apparent but don’t really fit in with the normal day to day running of my life.
Some examples of water actions include, buying a book that I just read a review for – I’ll add a task, ‘buy from Amazon, such and such book.’ Another example is to research something – perhaps I head about a new social media platform – I’ll add that to the list. This area of my list doesn’t ever have to get done. It’s just random things for me to look into if I have the time.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress – Don’t Aim To Finish Every Task!
And speaking of time, in the past my goal was to get everything done on my list. Thankfully, I’ve alleviated the unnecessary pressure and stress of having to get everything done. I just don’t work that way anymore. I create list with an open mind. I might get everything done or perhaps I’ll get just a few things done. As long as I’m working on my rocks every day (my 20% that returns 80% of my results) I’m moving forward in the most fulfilling way for me.
The following morning I’ll pull out yesterdays daily to do list and transfer any undone items over and in some cases many tasks seem to disappear are are no longer needed. The system works really well!
Give it a go and let me know how it works for you – or better yet, let me know how I can improve on my daily ‘to-do’ checklist abilities. I’m always interested in improving.
Download the free checklist template used in the image here: Free Checklist Templates!