Do you have a list of “to do’s” that sets the tone for your day?

Is there a feeling of accomplishment with each item checked off?

Have you ever created a list, started checking off items on the list, completed two or three additional tasks, wrote them on the list, and then crossed them off the list just to get another dopamine hit?

Researchers have found that “to do” lists tyrannize us with a sense of hovering. A list is akin to a ceiling ever lowering down, itemizing all of the critical things that require your immediate attention today, tomorrow, or within the next 30 minutes.

However, being busy is not the same as being productive. Without a principle-based formula on what or how to prioritize, we fall back to familiar.

As a child, next to “no” as my primary vocabulary word, “I’m busy” was in the top ten.

  • “I can’t play games with you right now, I’m too busy.”
  • “If you don’t have anything to do, I’ll give you something to do.”
  • “How come you’re not doing anything?”
  • “Go ahead and tell me about your school assignment, I can still listen.” (picture parent working on computer, typewriter, or reading.)
  • “If you’d put as much effort into into your chores, as you do avoiding them, you would have the entire house spick and span by now and I’d wouldn’t have work so hard.”

As a child, each statement demonstrated my low priority to my mother, uncles, grandparents, leaders, etc.

Wolfgang von Goethe said,

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of thing which matter least.”

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered what is now referred to as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity: or the Pareto principle. It’s interesting to note that the Pareto principle is considered a law or a principle and not a theory or hypothesis.

Therefore, for most, if not all of your outcomes, roughly 80% of the consequences (results) stem from 20% of your effort. It could be 90/20, or 70/10. The gist of the law is that the majority of results come from smaller but critical efforts, not the cumulative whole.

Being busy means that 80% of effort is trivial, if not completely wasted. Which means that roughly 20% of narrowly focused effort will impact the result in the right direction. This is called the law of “unequal distribution.”

Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan explain in their best-selling book, “One Thing”, that replacing the “to do” list with a “success list” will improve your accomplishments. “To Do” lists are long and “Success” lists are short.

According to Bob Hawk,

Things which are most important, don’t always scream the loudest.

Therefore, having a principle-based system to prioritize your efforts will keep you more focused and for a longer period of time.

Paraphrasing Keller & Papasan, what is the “ONE THING” you can do today that will get you closer to your goals?

Then prioritize that one thing and observe how many other little things on your list get checked off.