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The most valuable business tip I know

If anyone ever asked my view on the key to success in business, my answer, I fear, would disappoint. Yet this one habit has driven my career.

Before sharing this invaluable tip – let me clarify: my approach has never been about being the best, but about being the very best I can be. Through this, I have generally been able to leverage the best of my abilities to achieve my potential. It’s a struggle, but so far so good.

And I have done it by being absolutely obsessed about one thing. It’s this one habit that has helped me stay one step ahead and get the opportunities that have come my way. And it’s a habit which might leave you under whelmed. So be it. Here it is.

That one habit? Now, please try not to shout out ‘huh?’ when I say. ‘To Do’ lists.

Seriously. ‘To Do’ lists. That’s the secret. ‘To Do’ lists: well planned; carefully prioritised; obsessively and ruthlessly followed every day.

Get more of the important things done every day. Don’t work harder or longer. Just get your priorities right. And be relentless in getting them done. Every day. Become the most productive people you know. How?

  1. Plan your day in advance: Every evening I plan my next day. I make a long list of all the things I need to get done.
  2. Identify your Big Rock: Then I identify the MOST CRITICAL task I MUST DO that will make the most powerful impact on my job. I call it my BIG ROCK. Brian Tracy calls it his ‘Frog’ in his outstanding book, ‘Eat That Frog’. I work out exactly when I will get that BIG ROCK done. Ideally, I make it the very first action of my business day.
  3. Prioritise: I then identify my five ‘A’s’… and prioritise them. A1, A2, A3 etc. Then my five ‘B’s’… and prioritise them. B1, B2, B3 etc.
  4. Write the list: Then I write the list (on a piece of paper – not electronic). I first list my meetings. Then the Big Rock (which I highlight in pink highlighter). Then the Five A’s… and the Five B’s.
  5. Follow the list, ‘like a terrier on steroids’: The most critical step then is to follow that list relentlessly. I start first always on the Big Rock, making as much progress as I can – ideally finishing it. Move on to the A1. The phone rings. It happens to be – say- a B3 priority on the list – get it done and tick it off. Then finish the A1. Move on to the A2. Finish that. A client calls. Urgent issue – so then create a new A1. Get it done. Go back to the list. Aha – I’m at A3 – so I get it moving… etc. Stick to your list. Yes – be flexible to deal with the ‘issues of the day’, but keep coming back to your list. Relentlessly. Obsessively. Passionately. Cross off what you’ve done. Make it a personal challenge every day to cross off as many as you can, in the right order.

The day ends. Review your list. 90% of what you needed to do is done. Start again. Think about tomorrow. Plan the day. Make a long list. Identify the Big Rock… etc. I know it’s simple. But, it works.

It is without doubt the most valuable business tip I know. And frankly a ‘life’ tip. And a habit best started early in life. When I was 14, my mother found a list I had written. The ultimate list. It was titled: “List of Lists I Need To Make”. Enough said. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing a ‘Things To Do Today’ prioritised list on one of my children’s desks. And that’s despite the fact that her Big Rock was ‘Ask Dad to give me $50”. Oy vey.

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