How 7 Extremely Successful Leaders Use Task Lists to Achieve Goals
Use the experiences from successful, high performers to leverage task lists and achieve your goals
Table of Contents
- Richard Branson, Billionaire Founder of the Virgin Group
- Barbara Corcoran, Founder of the Corcoran Group and Shark Tank star
- Kevin O’Leary, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank star
- Jim McCann, Founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com
- Shannon Miller, 2X U.S. Olympic gold medalist
- Michelle Obama, Former First Lady
- Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s The Profit
- Creating an Effective To-Do List
Why are to-do lists necessary to achieve goals in the modern world?
No matter what you’re attempting to accomplish, life is busy and it does not slow down.
If you want to make sure that you can achieve everything you want to accomplish, then a list is one of the best assets you can have.
You may see a lot of articles out there titled with something about high performers not actually using to-do lists. However, if you study those articles, you’ll actually find that these successful people use a to-do list in some form or at some point in their process.
Today’s many successful, high-performing leaders use to-do lists to take care of tasks and to achieve their goals.
Their to-do list may be the primary tool that they refer to throughout the day. Or they use it to create a schedule for themselves. At one point or another, it’s still a key component to organizing themselves to be as productive as possible.
You may prefer to use a calendar or a planner but how do you create a calendar or schedule? You create one based on a to-do list whether it’s from a piece of paper or it comes from your head.
Successful people have different styles and work according to a rhythm that suits them. Some may use a to-do list one way and some in another way. Regardless of how they use one, what you can learn from their experiences is priceless.
Here is what you can learn from their efforts to find success.
Richard Branson, Billionaire Founder of the Virgin Group, and Creating Lists for Productivity
Sir Richard Branson founded the Virgin Group in the 1970s. He would come to control over 400 companies in various industries. He says that he has always lived his life by making lists.
He works through his lists each day and that helps him move forward with plans.
His most crucial productivity tip is this: creating a list clarifies what’s worth doing and what isn’t.
Once you have a master list, analyze it and prioritize so that you’re working on things that actually matter. Things that actually move you towards accomplishing your goals.
Then make sure to celebrate every success before creating the next to-do list you want to accomplish.
Barbara Corcoran, Founder of the Corcoran Group and Shark Tank star, and Structuring Productivity
Barbara Corcoran founded The Corcoran Group, an agency she sold in 2001 for $66 million. She’s part of a celebrity panel on ABC’s Shark Tank where entrepreneurs can pitch their idea to secure investments for their business.
Her task lists work better when they are broken into different sections. She uses this structure because it helps her stay productive even when there are severe time constraints on her schedule.
Corcoran prioritizes phone calls, typically two or three, first because she doesn’t want to lose sight of their importance. She values her relationships with others and uses calls to foster those relationships.
Additional sections that she uses for her to-do list include reviews and projects.
She separates her project lists into A, B, and C categories. Items in the A list have deadlines. The other groups hold equally important tasks, but fewer time-sensitive issues.
Kevin O’Leary, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank star, and Identifying the Most Important Tasks
Kevin O’Leary sold his education and family entertainment software to Mattel for $4.2 billion. His portfolio of companies includes financial services, publishing, and a wine label. In addition to Shark Tank, he’s appeared on various television shows and contributes regularly to CNBC.
At the end of each day, he plans the next day by writing down the three most important tasks to accomplish. Those three items, whether work or personal, are the first tasks he works on.
He suggests applying blinders to everything else, including email and phone calls, until those important tasks are done.
This helps him spend his time efficiently and focus on what really matters.
Jim McCann, Founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com, and His To-Do Lists
Jim McCann says that without a task list, it’s too easy to fall into busywork. That makes it more challenging to be productive.
He thanks his mentor for being the one who introduced him to the concept of list-making. He calls this individual the “most organized” and “extremely buttoned-up” person he has ever met.
McCann uses several different lists to stay organized. He notes things down to avoid forgetting them. He considers each item and assigns them to either a “Things I Have to Do Today” list, a general to-do list, a projects list, or a long-term ideas list, which consists of goals for the year.
He regularly reviews his lists with his team to evaluate the placement of each item.
Shannon Miller, 2X U.S. Olympic gold medalist, and Task List Priorities
Shannon Miller won a total of seven Olympic medals as a member of the United States gymnastics team during the 1992 and 1996 games. She is now an author and a busy entrepreneur.
Her to-do lists were based on the need to set priorities for her life. She tackled the challenge of balancing family time, chores, schoolwork, Olympic training, appearances, and other obligations by outlining a very specific schedule.
She still keeps a schedule that is almost minute-by-minute.
Your task list can be on a calendar. If you choose to accomplish your goals with this tool, then you can set a default time slot of 15 minutes for each task.
That will allow you to spend only as much time as is necessary for each item on your to-do list.
Remember to block out all of the time for the essential things in your life first. Include activities like date night, exercise sessions, and other times for relaxation.
Michelle Obama, Former First Lady, and Her To-Do List Life Hacks
Michelle Obama was more than the First Lady of the United States for eight years. She is also an essential leader in the Obama Foundation.
She is ruthlessly efficient, taking care to organize not just her work life, but her life in a holistic manner.
She learned that the easiest life hack to apply to her to-do lists and calendars involved proactive communication. When her daughters were in school, Obama would speak to their principals and teachers at least one year in advance.
Protecting time as early as possible makes it easier to say “no” to the things in life that try to disrupt your schedule.
She feels that if you’re not taking care of yourself, then your productivity levels will disappear. You will be no good to anyone.
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s The Profit, and His Knockout Task List
Marcus Lemonis is a successful businessman who invests in small businesses on the television show The Profit.
He makes a list of the five things he wants to accomplish right away in the morning. Once those items are on this knockout task list, then they have to get done without exception.
He physically writes down his tasks on notecards. Each notecard is a promise. The items that make the to-do list might include significant tasks, such as overhauling the supply chain of a company.
He says that one of the best parts of his day is to turn his knockout list items into paper airplanes. By sending thee notecards soaring, he can visually see that his productivity levels have taken flight.
Creating an Effective To-Do List
How do you actually create an effective to-do list? How do you create a tool that will turn you into a high performer?
Here are the steps.
Brain Dump for a General List
Note down everything you need to accomplish or work on.
Do you have a new project to start? Put it on the list.
Is there a presentation you have to give next week? Put it on the list.
Is there a blog post due? Put it on the list.
Prioritize the Top 3 Tasks
To-do lists are a great way to ensure you’re tackling the most important things first. If you don’t prioritize your list, it can be difficult to keep track of which tasks are the ones you should be working on at any given moment.
What you should know at all times is what your top 3 tasks are. These are the tasks that help you realize a successful, accomplished day as you complete them.
Consider these two key factors for your top 3:
- Urgency. Is there an upcoming deadline? Will it immediately prevent your business from making money?
- Importance. Does it contribute to your long-term goals and values? Will it help you 4x your revenue?
Simplify Your List
Including your top tasks, figure out what tasks you want to work on for the time period. Don’t try to do everything. Eliminate the unnecessary tasks that aren’t urgent nor important.
Even if your to-do list only consists of your top 3 tasks as the ones you want to focus your attention on, that makes it easier on your brain.
After you simplify your to-do list, it’s time to get specific with your actual tasks. For each item, don’t just note the location. Turn your items into actionable tasks by including a verb for each.
For huge tasks, break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. While it seems like this step complicates things, you’re simplifying the task. Not only do you turn it into manageable portions, but you’ll also give yourself a clear roadmap of what you actually need to do.
Schedule Your Tasks
It’s crucial to dedicate specific time blocks to specific tasks. Anchoring a task to a time gives you structure instead of leaving your tasks floating around.
This can keep you from leaving things to chance. If your tasks are actually important, they shouldn’t be left to chance.
How Will You Use To-Do Lists to Improve Productivity?
Successful leaders use to-do lists to take care of their daily tasks in a variety of ways. When you can adopt this resource to meet your unique needs, then it will help you to stay productive instead of only being busy.
Receiving advice from successful people is only the first step of this equation. You must take the lessons they have already learned to heart and put into practice.
Learning from their experience is a unique way to take your work to the next level.
Make today the day to start increasing your productivity levels. Spending a few minutes on a task list will help to unlock your full potential.
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