T.I.L.T. #140 – The World’s Shortest To Do List

For those of you wondering why I failed to T.I.L.T. last week, I officially blame my Slow Watch which has joyfully helped me lose track of time ever since I got it. Unofficially, I was too wrapped in my daily life trying to take care of way too many to dos on my seemingly infinite to do list both at home and at work. Along the way, T.I.L.T. got lost in the shuffle. Sad, I know. I mean, where are my priorities?

That’s why I’ve decided to do away with all the traditional to do lists I am drowning in. I’m going to boil it all down to a Slow List similar the Slow Watch. Rather than overload myself with details of due dates or categories or automated reminders for everything, it will just be a list of the five most important tasks I need to get done. All of the other countless tasks vying for my attention will remain hidden until I can cross off one of the top five. Then I can add one more to make a new top five, and maybe, just maybe, I may make a lot more progress on important things than wasting time on tasks which are neither important or urgent and really should never have ended up on my to do list in the first place.

I got the idea from learning about how Warren Buffet, one of the most successful men in the world, sets and achieves his goals. Try this: Sit down and write the top twenty-five goals in your life. Anything you want. No matter how big, no matter how small. Be selfish. Be selfless. Whatever makes your heart sing. Then figure out which five things are the most important ones to you. Take your time, be really certain about it. Compare one to another. Which one is the number one goal compared to all the others? Which one is number two? See if you can number them all the way to twenty-five. Seriously, it’s a great exercise. Try it and learn something about yourself.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: the top five are the most important ones because these are the only things you should spend your time on. Everything else on the list is your Avoid-At-All-Costs List. The things on that list are obviously important to you, they may make you feel productive and alive, or they’re just really fun. But, if you really want to achieve your top goals, you need to focus on them exclusively. In short, if you stay busy on all of your top twenty-five goals all the time, the odds of you achieving any one of them is very small.

I did the above exercise and found it extremely helpful to remind myself of what I really want out of life. I then sorted my infinite to do list based on my top five goals. If any of the to dos did not fit into my top five goals, it got eliminated. Unless it fell into a sixth category I call Daily Life. Warren Buffet may have the luxury to not have to put things on his list like vacuum the house or clean the windows, but alas, I’m not there yet.

After that, I sorted my lists into the top five tasks for each of my top five goals. I then made a list of the number one tasks for each goal and voila, my to do list has only five items on it now. The most important items I should do to achieve my goals. The rest can wait.

Except the Daily Life list of course — unfortunately dishes don’t wash themselves yet. But if you are going to spend your time doing something other than the most important things, then at least you know it’s something you really need to do anyway rather than something that is maybe really not as important as you might like to think it is.

Best of all you can really enjoy yourself when you’re not working on your to do list, such when you are spending valuable and important downtime relaxing with family or friends or enjoying some leisure activity. You can let go of worrying about all the things you ‘should’ be doing because you know that when you are working on your to dos, they’re actually important, they will bring you closer to your real goals, and hey, it’s a really short list. I mean, how hard can it be to get one out of five things done after you finish washing the dishes?

At least that’s my theory I am now trying to put into practice. The funny thing is that none of my top goals are connected to my day job. That ought to tell me something, eh? Still, paying the bills is part of Daily Life, so hi ho hi ho it’s off to work I go, but I am going to try and apply the same approach to my job. If I only have a list of five things to do at work each day, I think I’d find it much less stressful, and maybe just maybe, I wouldn’t fail to deliver T.I.L.T. on time again in the future since publishing is one of my top goals.

Until next week, T.I.L.T. fans, I hope you all can figure out what to do without me. I’m off to spend some time now with wifey who is, of course, above and beyond all to do lists. I mean there are goals and to dos and Daily Life, but nothing quite as important as my Daily Wife!

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