Creating; Managing & Optimizing Lists : The Holy Grail of Productivity [#ProductivityHacks Series]


[This is 4th article in the #ProductivityHacks series currently running on]


Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer

It is said that there is a very minor difference between successful and unsuccessful people: Those who are successful know where they are right now, and where they are going.

Unsuccessful people have no idea about these questions. For them, life drifts along the way air is blowing – they are without any mission, goal or objective in life.

Productive entrepreneurs are fully aware of their position in life, and the map to their success. And one of the most important ingredients of this recipe is: Lists.

If you pick any successful and result-oriented entrepreneur, you will discover one common link among them; a trait which 99% of productive professionals rigorously apply in their life and always encourage others to follow suit as well: Lists.

Productivity Hacks Entrepreneurs-003


What are Lists?

Lists can be defined as a summary of key action tasks which needs to be implemented in order to accomplish a goal. These tasks should be summarized in bullet points on these lists, so that a casual glance on them can convey the message and the urgency.

The Origin of Lists

The history of lists dates back to early 1900s, when Ivy Lee, one of the first time management consultants helped one business man to optimize performance by using lists.

The story goes that Charles Schwab, President of Bethlehem Steel was very desperate to finish things he started, but couldn’t do them. Some or the other tasks kept him busy and his unfulfilled goals and ambitions bothered him like anything.

He asked Ivy Lee’s help in this matter.

When Ivy Lee entered his office, he handed him a blank piece of paper. And asked Charles to write down the 3 most important goals which he wants to accomplish today. After Charles wrote it down, he said, “Tomorrow morning, when you enter the office, start working on goal # 1 and keep working on that. Until and unless it’s over, don’t move to goal # 2 and goal # 3. Don’t worry about the schedule or time delay because the secret lies in focus.”

Such was the influence of this simple idea and methodology that it is said that Charles sent a check of $25,000 as consultation fee for Ivy; which is equivalent to $2.5 million in today’s currency. (Time Management: The Art of Getting Things Done, Economic Press, 1971)

Which Lists Should You Create?

Depending on your mode of operation and your business, you can create different types of list to suit your needs. The objective of creating lists is to remind yourself the most important tasks which need to be finished in order to accomplish your goals. In the last chapter, you had read how to start your day with written goals. Lists will help you to achieve those goals and make your day super-productive.

Here is one simple method of creating lists which I have personally used and implemented in my daily life:

A) Master List:

This is the main list, which contains all the project names and big goals which you want to accomplish in the coming days. You can capture you ideas, your plans, your visions, everything you want to accomplish in future. As ideas hit your mind, just transform them into this master list and make them a reality.

For example, lets say that you want to purchase a new home for your family. This can be included in the master list: “Purchasing a new home”. Even if your business is small and you are barely able to pay your office rent, this written mention of your goal will make it an important part of your life and your subconscious mind will register it somewhere. Automatically, you will start finding ways to accomplish it.

B) Monthly List:

Now, pick one goal from the Master list, and create monthly goals to achieve that. Normally, you can open this list at the end of the month to plan your next month. Subsequently, at the end of the month you can review the tasks which have been accomplished and plan accordingly.

For the Master List: Purchasing a new home, a subsequent Monthly List can be: “Arrangement of Down Payment and Real Estate Consultant Visit”

C) Weekly List:

Now, break down the monthly tasks as per the weeks of the month. Say for Week 1, you will need to do this, for Week 2, this and so on. This gradual breaking of tasks into weekly parts will make the whole process easy and your mind will register them as comfortable tasks, rather than huge obstacle.

For example, for Week 1, you can break down the tasks as: “Selling the stocks; Visiting Real Estate Consultants in Northern part of the city”. At the end of every week, you can take couple of hours, and update the list.

D) Daily List: The Action

And, from the weekly list, you can finally carve out the action which you need to accomplish today, which is the Daily List. Everyday when you get up in the morning, you can directly open this list and find out the tasks which you want to accomplish today, so that you have a clear and cut idea as to how you day will proceed.

One thing I would like to share here, that as you finish completing the tasks, mark them as complete and tick off those tasks. This visual representation of completed tasks will give you an idea of the whole picture, and you will feel good as well. When you will see that the written goals are being actually implemented and achieved, your mind will be energized and motivated.

Initially, creating and managing lists may seem like an additional task and the weak hearted quickly quit creating lists after some time. But with regular usage and implementation of this idea, you will slowly find it liberating.

With time, you will understand that lists are actually the pillars of your productivity, using which you can create unlimited projects and achieve unprecedented success.

Previous Chapters in Productivity Hacks For An Entrepreneur Series

  1. Understanding Importance of Time
  2. The Morning Activities
  3. The Four Step Plan
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  1. […] Creating; Managing & Optimizing Lists […]

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