How to Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make Money

By Kyle Milligan / November 22, 2016

Anyone working for themselves has to deal with the burden of choice. Entrepreneurs are overwhelmed with discretion and it can be difficult to free oneself from the weeds of frivolous activities and increase productivity. Worry not, I have the best daily to-do list strategy that can make you more productive in no time.

I found this strategy while rereading one of my favorite books ever, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. I’ve plugged this book on probably a third of my posts, it’s that good. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller How To Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make MoneySee What Others Are Saying

The Pareto Principle

To properly execute the best daily to do list, you have to understand the Pareto Principle because it is the principle that drives the list’s effectiveness.

The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, is simple. It states that 20% of your actions yield 80% of your results. Or 20% of your clients account for 80% of your business. It can go the other way too: 20% of your bad habits account for 80% of your failures.

The Pareto Principle is not meant to be taken literally. It can be 70/10, 10% of your clients account for 70% of your business, etc. The Principle is an idea more than a formula. It is a guide with which you should approach your business or even life. Use it as a lens to see the world through and help you increase productivity, identify patterns, strengths, and weaknesses.

Why the Pareto Principle matters and what it has to do with a to do list

The problem with most to do lists is they aren’t optimized. They have too many frivolous tasks that don’t improve your business or get results. In business, one thing matters above all else: Sales.

Sales fix everything. Even if something in your business is totally broken and FUBAR, a steady flow of sales will offer the palliation that can keep a business alive.

Everybody Loves Sales How To Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make Money all99

Everybody Loves Sales

The Pareto Principle illustrates that equality is a myth. All to-do tasks are not equally important. All clients are not equally important. Your 80% clients that yield 20% of your business are great, but really, they should not be regarded with the same amount of attention as your 20% clients that provide 80% of your business.

Keep the Pareto Principle at the front of your brain, because this thought process will directly translate into making you more productive. Once you accept the Pareto Principle as true and begin applying it, you will see that a lot of items on your to do list actually yield you little to no results. We are going to take a to do list and break it down using the Pareto ratio to increase your productivity and increase your business’ results.

How to Make the Best Daily to do List to be More Productive

Step 1. Make a list

It really doesn’t matter the length of the list or how much thought you put into it. It can be 50 things, it can be 10 things. It doesn’t have to only be 80% things, not yet. Chances are, regular-life things have appeared on your list as well as work things. “Pick up dry cleaning,” “Get groceries,” those sorts of things.

Step 2. Create a Success list

Let’s say your list is 10 items long. In The ONE Thing, Gary Keller draws up a mock list and labels it like this:

  • Should do
  • Could do
  • Should do
  • Could do
  • Should do
  • Should do
  • Could do
  • Could do
  • Could do
  • Should do

Keller insists we create “success lists” instead of “to do lists.” A success list is designed to help you be more productive, and it’s pretty basic. A success list is just prioritizing those “Should do”s in your list into one standalone list. Where you started with a list of 10 items, you could shrink it down to 5 by only doing the things that you “should do.”

Find The ONE Thing – Extreme Pareto

Gary Keller insists that by narrowing down ANYTHING to just ONE thing, you will achieve extraordinary results. He calls this process, “Extreme Pareto.”

Pareto Principle How To Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make Money all99

You start with your list, it could be 100 things long, and narrow it down to the 20% that achieve 80% of the results. You take 100 and narrow down to 20 items, but don’t stop there. Narrow it once more down to the 20%. That will give you 4 things that yield the greatest results. We’re not at ONE yet, so we go even further. At this stage we have to select ONE thing of 4 that will yield us the greatest results and increase productivity.

In The ONE Thing, Keller says he applied Extreme Pareto to learn guitar. He only had a handful of minutes to practice each day so he asked his gifted friend what was the ONE thing he could practice out of ALL things and his friend said, “scales.” Keller said just by practicing the minor blues scale he was able to effectively learn guitar and start learning solos.

Applying the Success List, Extreme Pareto, and The ONE Thing to Your Business

Keller leaves the chapter there, a little vague, and counts on you to use your judgment to figure things out. I think we should go a step further.

To properly create a success list, you have to make use of the Pareto Principle and recognize that all to do items are not created equally. BUT! When looking at a list of tasks, you might think they all seem important. They don’t seem like “could do” or “should do,” to you, they all seem like “must do.” Keller doesn’t give much guidance on how to prioritize, but I will.

At the end of the day, what matters most in a business? Sales. Sales. Sales. Sales. SALES!

Therefore, you must prioritize your list in order of what is getting you sales and immediacy. What is making you money now? Take your daily to do list. Isolate the items that are revenue generating activities. If there aren’t any, you should add some.Success How To Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make Money all99

A great resource to drill down how you make money and come up with a plan is Scott Gerber’s one paragraph start up plan for your business. I answered the 8 questions, adjusted my business, and made money off the changes in 24 hours.

Create a full to do list, then apply the Pareto Extreme rule while keeping revenues in mind. Knock down your list from 10-12 items, then down to about 4-5 items. Drill down on which of those things most directly gives you income the most immediately. Those are your 20% items that yield you 80% of your income. Do those first.

Don’t throw out the rest of your list!

Chances are, those last 4 items are all important items. Most of them should generate revenue. Don’t throw them out! Instead, prioritize what puts money in your pocket now, get it done, then move on to the 2nd most immediate revenue generator.

Some of these items may take time. You may spend all day doing The ONE Thing you made most important. But that is okay. It is ideal. It is actually PERFECT to spend all day working on that one thing, because by applying the Extreme Pareto practice, you have already established that that is The ONE Thing that will make the greatest impact on your business.

Best Business Book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller How To Make the Best To Do List to be More Productive and Make Money

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P.S. If you haven’t checked out The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, I highly recommend it (obviously).

About the author

Kyle Milligan

I'm Kyle Milligan. I really enjoy writing. I wrote a couple novels (The Hang-Ups and Hangovers series) and now I blog frequently on a bunch of different websites. I also enjoy lifting heavy things and and writing about it.

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