The List

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Every day, I start off my work day by making a list of tasks that I must either complete or make progress on during that day. It’s my to-do list, my task list, my list of goals for the day…everything I must get done that day. Sometimes I get them all done. Sometimes I do not. However, getting them all done is only part of the reason for starting off each day in this manner.

The real reason is this: progress.

I take this view directly from Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” philosophy, which he sums up as part of his “debt snowball” plan much better than I ever will here:

List all debts but the house in order. The smallest balance should be your number one priority. Don’t worry about interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. If that’s the case, then list the higher interest rate debt first. This step will make a huge difference in your everyday life. You’ll use the debt snowball to knock out your debts one by one, from smallest to largest. Pay off the first one. Then add what you were paying on it to the next debt and start attacking it. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you’ll see results and stay motivated to dump your debt. As each debt is paid off, your cash flow will increase and the bigger debts will be gone sooner than you think. Before you know it, you’re debt-free!

I go about my day much the same way, by making progress and knocking out as many tasks as I can. Again, sometimes I don’t get them all done, but at least at the end of any given crazy day, I can see that I have made significant progress.

In digital marketing-speak, my daily to-do list would be considered a KPI, or key performance indicator. The number of items crossed off that list – and the fact that I created and marked all over the list – is an indicator of progress in this day, this week, this month, this year, and towards my larger goal.

Also, I always hand-write this list. Always. I’ve tried using Google Calendar, or Apple’s Task List, Evernote, and any number of other tools, but nothing substitutes for the handwritten list. And I keep those lists in a simple notebook, which is the same notebook that I use to take notes in any given meeting, meetup, event, or phone call. My wife taught me this one. She called it her “Captain’s Log”, and everything goes in the Captain’s Log. Writing everything down helps me remember it (many times better!) and also helps me maintain some manner of penmanship, a dying art in these days of high-performance thumbs.

If it isn’t written down, it never happened. How do you track your progress on any given day?

What do you think about that?

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