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How to Stop Wasting Time and Start Getting Things Done

March 2, 2011 11 Comments

Do you work really hard but don’t make as much progress as you’d like? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I used to feel the same way, but then my dad taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

What I Was Doing Wrong
Five years ago I met with my dad for lunch. When he got to the restaurant I was already there and had my daily to-do list on the table. My dad asked, “what is that?” I told him it was the list of things I had to do that day. He said, “that list is way too long. I bet you don’t get much real work done.” I denied it, of course. But, five minutes later, I admitted he was right and ask him for advice.

What He Taught Me
He then showed me his to-do list. It was a sheet of paper with a horizontal line on it. There were two items above the line and five below it. He explained, “Every day I ask myself ‘What’s the one thing that I should do today to get closer to my goal?’ One thing, maybe two, but definitely not ten. I write those two items above the line. Then I ask myself, ‘What other things would be nice to do today?’ and I write those below the line. Every day I work on the items above the line and ONLY IF I HAVE TIME do I work on the ones below the line.”

The Epiphany
That made me realize that my criteria to decide what days were productive and which ones weren’t was the number of things I got done one any given day. I used to do 30 things every day and my dad did only two. But his two were the absolute two most important things he could do to move his business forward.

The Takeaway
I highly encourage you to ask yourself these questions: “What’s the one thing I can do to get closer to my goal?” “What’s the one thing that will generate the biggest impact on my business/life?” Make sure you do those things first, and if you have time, then you can do everything else on your list.

A Great Idea
One more thing: It’s natural to feel good about crossing things off our lists. We love getting things done. That’s why we don’t like big important projects as much as tasks like “checking the email”. The latter gives you more instant gratification because you can do it in five minutes and cross it off your list. Here’s a trick to get the same level of satisfaction from working on big projects: break them down into chunks. If your next priority is to build a new site, your next step could be “put together a list of 10 websites I like”.

What do you think? Do you have other tips on becoming more productive?


Zeke Camusio

About the Author

Zeke Camusio is a serial entrepreneur, marketing speaker, author of The Internet Marketing Bible and CEO of Digital Aptitude, a data-driven digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon.

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11 thoughts on “How to Stop Wasting Time and Start Getting Things Done

  1. That’s right on! I’ve heard about several time management techniques and this one tops them all. Thank you for sharing this important story. I feel more productive already!

  2. Hi Zeke,

    I put everything into the iPhone app 2Do. It helps me remember what I need to do and you prioritize work by urgency and /or time.
    Works for me.


  3. Hi Zeke, Great thought. I have been a productive person and naturally get the habit of making Todo list and crossing things off from it and have been pretty good with getting things done.

    What works for me is that I use Microsoft OneNote exclusively for it ( there might be other equivalent applications ). Every day I start a new page and start the day by listing down the tasks for the day. OneNote allows a type of bullet which is a small square and when you click on it, it adds a tick mark inside. That works great for me as I go on completing the task, I add the tick mark.

    I also prioritize the items as 1st Priority & 2nd Priority. Again OneNote provides these small square boxes with numbers 1 & 2 to differentiate the two tasks.

    Eventually the log of all my days work also gets maintained as part of OneNote.

  4. Hi Zeke,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
    I really like your father’s idea of having Horizontal
    line to separate what really matters…. what it is what
    put us on the path of good to great….

  5. Hi Zeke,
    I really loved your tips and its helping me a lot……
    i usually make a huge list on my tab which i of course
    am unable to do.

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