Life Coaching

  • Secrets of the Master List Part I – What is the Master List?

    Posted March 31, 2011 By in Life Coaching With | No Comments

    The dreaded To Do list. We’ve all had them and at one point or another, we’ve all cursed them.

    Of the people that have given an honest effort to using the To Do list its been my experience that it is a pretty even split between the ones that love it and use it every day and the ones who walked away years ago and have never looked back. Personally, I think the one’s who say they’ve never looked back are just bluffing. If I were a betting man (and Utah were a betting state) I would lay money that they do in fact keep a To Do list; they just do it mentally.

    There is a smaller group of the To Do list lovers that take this ritual even a step further and employ a technique thought of close to a century ago. This simple technique made one particular man, Ivy Lee, a load of money and has since undoubtedly done the same for countless numbers of it’s followers. What is this technique? The 6 things list.

    The idea behind the 6 things list is that you write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow before you go to bed (or at the end of the business day). In the morning you will focus only on the first item until its completion then on to number two, followed by three and so on. Any tasks that you didn’t complete that day go onto the list for the next.

    It really is a great concept and when practiced regularly and with the right personality type it can work wonders. So what’s the problem with it? Well for us mental To Do’ers writing a new To Do list every night before we go to bed is an almost unsurmountable task to begin with. You add to it that we’re to not only keep track of said list through out our often busy and hectic days but we’re to refer back to it when making decisions about what to work on. This is the equivalent to asking a 4 pack a day smoker to quit cold turkey while working in a tobacco shop. We need baby steps into this whole list thing, something more solid and consistent.

    The answer to this is the Master List. It is a simple adaptation of the 6 things list only on a larger time scale and a larger goal scale to match. The Master List is a year long 6 things list. Think of it like a road map that will help make sure you stay on the right path to your ultimate vision. First we’ll build a Master List then we’ll walk through the magic behind it.

    There are just 6 simple steps to creating your Master List:
    1. Take a deep breath, smile and realize that you are never alone in your challenges in life.
    2. Think of all your lofty goals for the years and try to group them together in a 30,000 foot view.
    3. Once you’ve got your top level items break each of them down, if applicable, to the smaller components that make up the top level item. This is as deep as we’ll take our Master List; two levels, no more.
    4. Now weigh the top level items against each other and decide which one is your primary project for the year.
    5. Once this is done repeat the last step until you have your top 6 projects for the year.
    6. Print both lists (one per piece of paper), staple them together and hang them somewhere you’ll see them often.

    That’s it. You have your Master List, your road map to success in the upcoming weeks and months. Those of you who are familiar with the 6 things list may be thinking that there doesn’t seem to much difference here. Well the difference in how you build the list is only a slight modification. The real meat of the difference between the Master List and the 6 things list is how you use it.

    Now instead of making a new list every night and only working toward item #1 until its complete I keep my Master List and make sure that I do at least one thing every day that progresses me toward my top priority project. This could be as small as writing a paragraph for your blog or website or talking to someone new about the products or services you offer. If I’m stumped on what to do to make progress than I lift the page up and look at my original list and because of those second level bullet points it usually gives me something to work on. If I get to the end of the day and all I’ve done is one thing that moved me closer toward #1 than I go to bed knowing it was a successful day because I’m one task closer than I was that morning.

    Here comes the first secret of the Master List and the big difference from the 6 things list. When the days or weeks start to get too overwhelming and I feel like I’m being pulled in too many different directions I reference back to my Master List and start eliminating the tasks and things I feel I have to work on for project #6. If that doesn’t clear up enough time I move on to tasks associated with project #5, #4 and so on. When I get to those times where I feel really stressed I will usually end up eliminating tasks all the way up into project #3 however, when the day or week of distress and anxiety ends I find that I’ve usually picked back up a handful of the tasks I had eliminated, sure I wouldn’t have the time or strength to get to them.

    In Part II we’ll go over why doing only 1 thing a day can make a huge difference in your life over the course of a year.

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