Sharing a new to-do list and task strategy I learned the other day – Could Do, Should Do, and Must Do. It’s a very simple framework to help folks stack prioritization and think about timing. Really, each description (i.e. “could do”, “should do”, and “must do”) is a list of tasks where moving from left to right represents the need.
Some things to consider when prioritizing tasks:
  • Time it takes to complete.
  • Explicit benefits upon completion.
  • Implicit benefits upon completion.
  • Cost to complete. (Weigh this against both explicit and implicit benefits for value.)
  • Blockers that prevent completion.

I’ve seen a lot of folks recently build task lists. Indeed, I have one (many) including my task list in Salesforce. However, not all should be weighted the same. The Could-Should-Must framework categorizes tasks into three simple buckets. Simplicity is key.

Any to-do list or task completion methods you recommend? Do you use one?
The last couple weeks, I’ve found myself less busy at work. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything to do at work. There’s always a sale to be made, of course. However, I admit that my afternoons have been less busy given my mornings have been highly focused. Perhaps this is why a LinkedIn article by author Benjamin Hardy resonated so well with me – “This Morning Route will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week”.
Hardy argues that peak performance occurs when people work 3-5 hours per day – far from the dogmatic 8 hours. He continues by sharing how the first 3 hours of the day are the most productive for folks according to  psychologist Ron Friedman in the Harvard Business Review.
Not saying that I’ve somehow stumbled on this currently, or that I’ve found myself hitting Hardy’s magic 3-5 hours per day. After all, I also work out most days within my first 3 hours of waking up.
Instead, I’ve realized there are certainly days where I am hugely productive and creative for 8-10 hours. But after several weeks of this, I am fatigued and need long periods to recover. These days, I believe I’ve hit a great stride of less hours of work but being highly focused. [This morning I created some great sales collateral in –yep—3 hours.]
The other key elements I havestumbled on that Hardy mentioned include protecting my mornings and detaching during non-work hours. For the former, I find myself preparing for the day by getting up 530AM. At this time, I’m either working out or reading. I protect these morning rituals by ensuring my nights start early.
For detaching during non-work hours, I do other things important to me –okay, 85% of the time. This includes doing yoga, reading, or watching the occasional Netflix show. I’ve gone so far as to also block out my calendar specific days and times to be completely off. Completely off times = social time or simply my time.
Everyone is different, but the concepts and lessons are applicable – know what works for you and hold those priorities as sacred.
I’ve always been a big proponent that you make time for the things and people that matter. Sounds simple, right? Then, why do so many not implement this better in their lives? Let me take a moment to recognize this more explicitly.
I touched on Laura Vanderkam’s TED Talk “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time” in last week’s post. In it, she shares a story of a woman who had a leak in her home. Coordinating with plumbers, and getting everything resolved, the woman estimated that it probably took seven hours of attention. That’s seven hours of “stuff” the woman hadn’t planned on doing. If you were to ask her (or most anyone) to find seven hours in the week before, she’d have told you, “heck, no, I don’t have seven hours. I’m busy!”
I was thinking of Laura’s talk in conjunction with Jacob Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life. Specifically, I’m aligning “making time” with Christensen’s Resources-Processes-Priorities framework. We make (process) time (resources) for the things that matter (priorities). From Christensen:

“Resources are what he uses to do it, processes are how he does it, and priorities are why he does it.”

I wrapped up 100 Strangers, 100 Days last week. Wow, that took a little more time than I thought. Meeting a Stranger was about 1.5 hours all in including:
  • 10-15 minutes “interviewing” 
  • + 15 minutes post-meet (many Strangers wanted to talk more and ask questions about the journey) 
  • + 60 minutes to transcribe our meet + social media updates (and formatting). 

It’s a lot, and I did that every day for 100 Days on top of the large workload I already do as the Head of Sales and Marketing at an early-stage startup. However, I managed to do it by setting each meet as a high priority of my day. I cut back on the lower priority items. Meanwhile, I also focused energy on the other facets of my life important to me – family, friends, working out, etc. Read: I was much more deliberate in my actions and the time I spent (and with whom).

Once you cut out the noise and the things that distract you, it’s amazing how much time you’ll find. Or rather, it’s amazing the quality of your life improves when you make time for the people and things that matter.