The information that I'm about to share with you was life-altering to me, so I hope that you don't skim this section thinking it's not appropriate to your business (it is) or that it's too complex (it isn't).
There is an economic principle called the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, that means that 80 percent of the value of any group comes from only 20 percent of the members of this group.
Let me explain a bit better. The 80/20 Rule basically means that 80% of the effects of anything in your life will come from 20% of the causes.
The 80/20 Rule has been applied to sales forces, wealth distribution, test scores, etc. Heck, it can be applied to parenting, marriage, health and exercise. It's true in… well 80% of your life, I'd imagine.
When applied to your To Do list, it means that 80 percent of the value of your daily list comes from only 20 percent of the items on it. In other words, if you have 10 items on your list, you could focus on only two tasks and get the vast majority of success just from those two activities – while ignoring the other 8 items entirely.
So, by now you're probably ready to go after your To-Do list, cutting out those low-payoff items. Before you get out the hatchet, read this short list of suggestions so that you cut the right ones out, and focus on the high-reward tasks:
1. Know what your goals are.
You can't choose your biggest payoff tasks if you don't know what your goals are. Thoughtful planning is critical so you know what you're trying to accomplish and how to rank your items accordingly.
2. Write it all down.
Write every task down, from the largest to the seemingly least important. If you're finding yourself getting sidetracked during the day, it may be because you've failed to write critical activities on your list. Before you can rank your items, you need a complete view of your work world.
With your goals in mind, ask yourself, “What are the top three activities I can complete today that will move me closer to those goals?” Put an asterisk next to those tasks, and start the day there. If you complete any of the other items, it'll be a bonus.
4. Track your success.
At the end of the week, review your daily lists. Have you made significant progress towards your goals? Which tasks turned out to be the most important? Which did you think were important but proved to be less critical?
5. Keep refining.
Use your weekly reviews to inform your decisions going forward. If you notice that you often rank your social media efforts as critical, but they don't seem to be impacting your progress towards your goals, resist putting those as starred items on your daily list. Conversely, if you notice a pattern in your highest impact activities, keep those high on your list.
Not all to-do items are created equal. If you consistently evaluate your activities according to your most important goals, you'll soon know which tasks to keep high on the To-Do list – and which can be eliminated completely.