As I was getting started in personal development, one of the audio programs that made the biggest difference for me was Brian Tracy’s The Science of Self-Confidence.
In it, Tracy talks about how we always make a to-do list the night before leaving on vacation, and how we’re diligent in ticking off every task, ensuring all loose ends are tied up before we leave.
And then he asks, why don’t we do this in our daily lives? If it’s so effective in helping us identify and complete tasks we need to do before a trip, why don’t we make a list of everything we need to do in work and life the night before? If we treated it with the same importance that we treated our pre-vacation to-do list with, wouldn’t we be just as effective in completing errands, in our creativity, in work, and in life?
In his research, Tracy found that we accomplish 80% of what we write down. And in my own experience, this has proven true repeatedly.
This is the Pareto Principle (80/20) at work. I’ve talked about how it applies to your overall effectiveness many times, but if we look closely in other areas of life, we’ll see it at work everywhere.
Now, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of only 80% of your to-do items getting done, here’s what you need to know:
At times, you will achieve more than 80%. But you will often find that 20% of your tasks are unimportant, inconsequential, or simply don’t need to be done. Sometimes your big domino makes smaller ones irrelevant.
One more thing you should know about writing things down:
A few years ago, I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. There are several productivity practices I’ve applied from that book that have stuck with me to this day.
One thing author Allen explains is that our brains are not great storage devices. With all the information we consume on a daily basis (texts, instant messages, emails, blog articles, podcasts, videos, and more), it’s a wonder our brains aren’t over-full already.
And while I understand that you’ve got a high IQ, good memory, and a rich inner life, you are prone to forgetting as much as anyone else. So, whether it’s goals, errands, or song ideas, I would encourage you to write everything down.
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