Don't MAKE the List ... DO the List
Too much energy is consumed on making the list.
There is something gratifying about jotting down all the things you need to do. It quenches one’s thirst for being organized and for wanting some control over one’s life generally complicated by too many things to do with insufficient time and financial resources to do them.
When we complete the list we feel that we have accomplished something.
The longer the list, the more pleased we feel as the long list represents mastering the translation of our complicated and ever changing personal world into concrete terms.
We spend considerable time making the list and managing the list when changes are required.
Frequently we lose the list.
Occasionally we are unable the decipher items on the list due to the abbreviated language we use to “save time” making it.
And list making teaches a bad habit, namely that if you write an action plan down it will happen.
We all know this is delusional thinking. The list is never completed the way it was originally conceived yet we continue to pour our energy into making the list knowing (hopefully) that it is a draft at best.
It’s time to change the list dynamic from MAKING the list to DOING the list. I know it’s called a To Do list, but it’s realły a statement of intent: “(I intend)To Do” is the common interpretation of what the list means however the “Do” action piece normalły gets short shrift.
It’s time to rid ourselves of good intentions; cut back on the time spent on creating the list and increase the time spent on DOING it.
The list is an imperfect “creature” anyway; it will never be 100% complete. Tomorrow something will come up that will render the list or a portion of it irrelevant. And the list will have to be revised.
Here are some quick-hit suggestions to DO the list.
1. Think short term. What absolutely must get done in the next 7 days? If you think beyond the next week you allow intentions to guide the list, you waste time and DO nothing.
2. Limit the list to not more than 3 things. You can’t DO more and if you think you can, you are falling victim to intentions.
3. Allocate the 3 DO items to the 7 days you have available. Space them out; don’t cram them in to one or two days where time constraints could impair your ability to execute.
4. Don’t allocate the full 7 days to your DO items. Leave some spare time to deal with temporary unexpected events (which will always happen) that distract you from your list.
5. Stay focused and avoid multitasking. “Get-one-done; move-on-to-the-next” is the formula for DO. Some argue that sequential action is unimaginative; perhaps, but it gets things done.
6. When an item on the list is done, strike it off but don’t replace it with anything. This could jeopardize the remaining item(s). You are on a 7-day DO cycle; new items will be listed at the start of the next cycle.
7. Develop the next list at the end of the 6th day. Carry over incomplete tasks if they are still a high priority. Incorporate what you have learned from DOING in the current cycle.
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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