My friend Barbara was telling me recently how one small idea changed her entire life.
Barbara is an enormously productive person who lives her life with great efficiency, and as part of maintaining that efficiency she begins every day by reviewing a detailed To Do list that she finalizes the night before.
Barbara’s always been a great believer in getting things done and her track record speaks to her commitment to doing so.
She has always prided herself on being extremely efficient. To her being efficient means becoming very good at executing the things she does and anything less than excellence constitutes failure in her eyes.
In other words, to Barbara, being efficient means doing things right.
And then one day she was struck with a question. She had committed her entire life to doing things right and the question she herself was this: she was enormously efficient but was she effective?
It dawned on her that in her desire to be efficient in all she does – doing things right – was she being effective – doing the right things?
She began to wonder how much more productive and rewarding her life would become if her focus shifted away from being excellent at everything she does and instead she focused on ensuring that what she did was directly contributing to giving her what she wants.
But shifting from doing things right to ensuring that she was doing the right things is not the small idea that recently changed her life.
The idea that changed her life was this: instead of compiling a daily to do list, she now draws a line down the center of the page, creating two columns.
At the top of one column she writes the word Should and at the top of the other, the word Must.
And it is the Must list that is brought profound, enriching and exciting change into her life.
Nothing gets placed in the Must column that doesn’t first past the effectiveness test. In other words every action on that list is an activity that will effectively (and efficiently) move her closer to her desired objective.
But the effectiveness of items on the Must list is only a small part of the role the Must list has played in bringing so much new success into Barbara’s life.
The power of the Must list lies in the word Must. To Barbara, must means there are no other options. An activity on the Must list is an activity that will get done. There are no acceptable reasons, excuses, apologies or defenses for an item listed on the Must list not to get done.
Must means, “gotta, have to, going to no matter what” and Barbara’s commitment to herself is to ensure that no day can come to an end without every item on the must list having been checked off.
Barbara’s told me that on a few occasions she has dragged herself out of bed after remembering an unchecked item she and her commitment to moving things from the Should list to the Must list has removed the biggest stumbling block that had long prevented her from reaching many of our goals.
Barbara’s biggest stumbling block is called mañana (tomorrow). We call it procrastination and it is a well-honed skill for many of us.
Barbara is convinced that a Must list is a cure for procrastination if we are absolutely willing to commit to the notion that no day is done until the Must list is empty.
And the remarkable results this small idea brought into her life serve as a loud tribute to how absolutely right she is.
I think we should start using a Must list every day.
Till we read again.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Set Free The Champion Within. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure