Learning to focus on my most important task and creating a to-do list has been the cornerstone of all my productivity.
There are very few people that do not understand know the Nike Slogan. While many people assume it refers to something sporty and cliché to sell their brand, I have gotten to internalize this slogan as my way of beating my bad habit of procrastination. From a young age, I realized that I continually tended to put off important tasks for later. I always made the excuse of saying that I wanted the conditions to be just right. Top of my list of reasons for postponing important tasks was:
- I am still young
- I have not eaten
- I do not want to seem too forward
- I need to know more about the topic
- I do not have the experience to undertake the task
- I will do something else first, then get back to it
I know several readers will be able to relate to one or two of these golden excuses. The thing with excuses is that you never run out of them. I have had to put off reading an essential text for an exam because I felt that no one else seemed to be reading it. As you may have assumed, I failed the course with flying colors.
Getting things done on time is a skill, a psychological skill. I read in an article once that the brain is like a muscle, and muscles grow by constant training, by applying tension. You will never get better at anything without practice; even natural star footballers like Messi will perform poorly without continuous training. I remember a friend in school that always quotes the famous phrase; training will beat talent anytime. I will like to give you a couple of tips that would guarantee you beat procrastination whenever it rears its ugly head.
- Create a list: To-do lists are as old as man. Cavemen usually inscribed on rocks, drawing of processes of getting things done such as protecting their young from wild animals. While this is nothing compared to the modern-day intelligent lists we create, I believe you all get the point. To be most effective, I learned that a to-do list should not have more than five items on it at a time. When I first started, I used to have a 20-items list that included things I needed to do next week. As you will learn from the following tips, prioritizing does the trick.
- Prioritize: constantly ask yourself the golden question, is this the best use of my time? In his famous book: Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less, Greg Mckeown emphasized the need to separate the vital few from the trivial many. Due to the complex nature of our brains, we are constantly in a state of worry. We are always thinking about things we need to get done at an alarming rate. Prioritizing ensures that you are making the best use of your time by focusing on those tasks that contribute the most to attaining your short and long-term goals.
- Do the most challenging tasks first: this is related to making a list. Ensure that your do-list is arranged chronologically, with the most challenging task seating at the very top. In Brain Tracey’s book, eat that frog, the author asked an amusing yet essential question. He said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This quote speaks to putting your most complex task at the top of your plans. This skill can dramatically spike your productivity levels when combined with the 80-20 rule.
Before 2019, I used to be the most unproductive person I know. It was weird that with all my grand ideas, all of which I am confident will work, I never used to get around doing anything about them. I would do business plans for all of my ideas and create logos with enough enthusiasm to fuel a political campaign. I even started going further by committing finances to these ventures, thinking that this would ‘motivate’ me to devote my time to it. For me to be writing about this, I guess you know that non of my previous methods worked. I would take just a single step but in a hundred directions.
Learning to focus on my most important task and creating a to-do list has been the cornerstone of all my productivity. I will leave you once again with a quote from Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan’s book titled, The One Thing (TOT):
“Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action.”
Until next time, do well to prioritize your activities and chronologically write them down according to their level of importance.
The Prince of Business