Why To Do Lists Don’t Work


One of the most frequent excuses I hear for not working out is being too busy.  Busyness is actually a form of laziness reflecting a lack of planning and preparation to properly manage your time.  In my own experience, the tool most often used to manage time – the to do list – is actually one of the biggest time wasters.

To do lists are the devil.  For one, they’re never ending.  My mind is constantly racing with new thoughts and ideas.  I love to do lists because they give me an outlet where I can dump my brain.  The problem is that the to do list grows and grows and a lot of stuff just doesn’t get done – usually the important stuff.

In my never-ending quest to conquer my own ADD and actually get stuff done, I’ve had to tweak the to do list concept.  At the beginning of each week I write down what I want to accomplish by the end of the week and by the end of the month.  Doing this really forces me to put things in perspective.  When I step back from my to do list and think about what I want to have done by the end of the month, it really makes me think about the big picture.

Break your monthly goals into weekly goals and focus on the next week of your life.  What’s going to get done by the end of this week?  Specifically outline everything that needs to get done to meet those deliverables, and you have a to do list of tasks that actually count.  Anything you add to that list is superfluous because you know that as long as you accomplish what’s on the original list you’ve accomplished your major goals for the week.

Now you can feel good about yourself and make time to work out.  Yeah, here’s an item to add to your to do list: “take care of my body!”

[ photo: flickr ]

Why most people fail…

FailRoadChange is difficult.  Everybody says they want to lose weight or focus on their career or start exercising, but few are willing to actually change their behavior.

Let me give you some examples, starting with myself…

Almost a year ago, I hurt my shoulder doing a chest exercise.  Although the pain has gone, I haven’t been able to bench press more than 185 pounds in the time since the injury.  Every time I try to I feel like my left shoulder is about to rip off.  Let me be clear – I REALLY want to get rid of this injury.  I’ve seen a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a doctor who is the leading expert on shoulder injuries in Hawaii, and had an MRI and an x-ray.  That’s a lot of work to fix a little shoulder problem.  The universally prescribed treatment for my shoulder?  Stretching my shoulder 5 times a day in 5 different directions, every single day.  I’ll be honest, I do not do this.  I’ll be honest, my shoulder injury is not getting better. Continue reading Why most people fail…

Disconnect to reconnect

brokeniphoneA few months ago I was flying from Hawaii to Germany. Total transit time was almost 24 hours and for most of that time I didn’t have any cell phone or internet reception. At the time I was dreading it. How could I get by with none of my electronic gadgetry to keep me on top of everything going on. As I was flying across the Atlantic though I experienced something profound – uninterrupted thought and productivity. Wow.

It can be hard to get stuff done with constant emails, phone calls, and text messages coming at you every minute. You spend all your time reacting to stuff instead of doing things on your own schedule. Although you’re still making progress – communication can be a big part of work – you’re still operating on someone else’s schedule, not yours. This, in turn, limits your productivity and drains your energy.

It’s the difference between running on a treadmill or running on land. When you’re running on a treadmill, you’re reacting. If you don’t, you’ll fall off the treadmill. Either way, you’re not going to get very far. Alternatively, you can go outside and run on land. Same action, different method. You’re no longer reacting, but rather setting and following your own path on your own terms. And you’re actually getting somewhere.

In the past I’ve talked about eliminating energy drain as a great way to maximize energy. Constantly reacting to stuff is draining. It keeps you from being productive, from contributing to your friends and relationships, and from really thinking through things. I’ve met lots of really hard working people who are unsuccessful. Some of the most successful people I know take days to respond to email and they take their time with everything they do. They work smart. They’re thoughtful and careful with their time. Most things aren’t as important as they seem.

The good news is, there’s an easy two step process to command and conquer your life. First schedule specific times in your day when you disconnect from everything. Schedule you time and stick to the schedule. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Don’t pick up your phone calls if you’re in the middle of something.

Second, when you’re working on something, disconnect. Turn off your phone, close your door, shut down email, disconnect your computer from the internet if you’re not using the web.

Disconnecting allows you to really reconnect. Not just with work, but with real people. It allows you to reconnect with yourself and what’s really important. So go ahead, turn off that phone. Or better yet, blend it.

[ photo: flickr / TheTechBuzz ]

Simple Clarity – Schedule your day to maximize your energy

The simplest and most effective way to regain control of your life and maximize your daily energy is to spend 15 minutes each evening or morning scheduling the upcoming day. Not just a to do list. But actually setting aside time blocks for specific things on your to do list. It’s important to include everything from eating, to personal time, to reading time, to email / communication time.

This puts your life on your schedule and allows you to thoughtfully work through things instead of just reacting to things all day. It also gives you scheduled time to rest and recharge your brain between periods of focused work. This alone will dramatically increase the amount of energy you have to actually engage in everything you do.  Here’s an example of the schedule I put together last night for today:

Yes, I eat a lot 🙂

[ photo: flickr / TheAlieness GiselaGiardino ]

Hiking in Paradise

Last weekend I hiked the Na’Pali coast by myself.  I’ve never camped alone before and it just seemed like a great way to meditate and center myself.  The Na’Pali Coast is on the north side of Kauai and the 11 mile hike to the beach at the end of the trail, Kalalau, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.  It’s also a really hard trek to do in one day, with thousand foot drop offs on a one foot wide path and over 5000 feet of elevation change.  I didn’t have a lot of time, so I hiked in all 11 miles last Friday, stayed the day Saturday, and hiked back all Sunday.

When I got back I was exhausted.  It’s taken me three days just to recover.  In the meantime, although I’ve been roughly sticking to my diet, I haven’t been religiously tracking like I usually do.  I don’t think I realized how much effort all this tracking takes till now.  I totally felt burnt out these last three days.  My take away: when you try to do too much, even of the things you love, you’ll likely overwhelm yourself and get less done in the long run.  I lost three days of productivity because I crammed a five day hike into three days.

That being said, the hike was amazing.  Kalalau is the most beautiful place on the planet.  Check out the amazing photos from the Na’Pali Coast and, of course, a video of the hike…