Why I Love Action Lists And You Should, Too


September 9, 2023

Hey friends,

One idea I've been thinking about lately is the more responsibility you assume, the more problems you face.

A new relationship. A new child. A new pet. A new job. A new business. A new volunteer position. A new personal goal. A new home. A new hobby. Each enriches your life. Each brings new problems to solve.

Sound familiar?

This week I completed 78 items on my to do list. Each item represented a problem in my life.

There were work problems: How to earn a promotion? How to prepare for a giant new client? How to get my team the inputs they need to succeed?

There were personal problems: What to cook for an upcoming dinner party? Where to find dog-friendly lodging for an upcoming road trip? When to return a borrowed key?

There were problems facing my small business: When to schedule a client who will travel frequently this month? What decisions to document in a consent form? How to display client testimonials?

Honestly, 78 problems is a lot of problems for one week. 10 years ago, I would have collapsed under that pile of problems. Today, I hardly gave it a second thought.

But there are still 146 problems left on my list, and new problems roll in every day.

How do you face the onslaught of problems in your life without becoming overwhelmed, stressed, or despondent?

The secret comes from David Allen in his classic book Getting Things Done.

There is always more to do than you can do, and you can only do one thing at a time. The key is to feel as good about what you're not doing as about what you are doing at that moment.

The key to feeling good about what you're not doing is to know exactly what you're not doing.

The key to knowing what you're not doing is to write down everything you need to do. Everything. All of it. No exceptions.

Yes, I've got 146 problems to solve. But I know exactly what each of them are. They're all stored neatly in a system I trust so when I choose to watch a movie or spend the evening with a friend instead of working on those problems, I know exactly what the tradeoff is, and I know nothing will slip through the cracks.

Many problems. No stress. It's a miracle. And that's why I love action lists.

Your turn: write down every problem you need to solve and the very next action you can take to solve it.

Creating your action list is really just the first step toward stress-free productivity, but the sense of clarity and relief you feel just from writing down everything you need to do might surprise you! If it sounds stressful, let me know. I block out time on my calendar to chat with people...don't be shy!

Have a great week!


❤️ My Favorite Things This Week

📚 Book - The Manager's Path by Camille Fournier. I moved into a management role relatively early in my career. Maybe even a little too early. While I treasure management classics by Peter Drucker, Andy Grove, and the like that focus on principles and practices, this is the first book I've encountered that offers a step by step guide through the career of a manager. I especially appreciated how the author outlines the expectations and levels of analysis associated with each level of management. If you even think you want to be a manager, this is a must read.

🎵 Song - "No More" by Stephen Sondheim (Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube Music). I don't even want to start unpacking this 😂 But there you go. It was my most listened to track this month.

🎬 Movie - The Deer Hunter (1978). This seemed like the type of movie I would not like. It mesmerized me. Particularly the first hour of this 3-hour film, which lingers on a raucous wedding celebration in a small, working class town in Pennsylvania during the Vietnam War. That's why I love film. You never know what will move you or hit you a certain way.

🎙️ My New Podcast Episodes

🧠 Book Club: Psychology of Money - We discuss what might actually be the most useful book I've ever read on personal finance. It's having a huge impact on how I'm able to help my clients.

😎 Optionality - The joys of having cash. Having cash available is doubly beneficial--it protects you from unexpected risks and it lets you take advantage of unexpected lucky opportunities.

✍️ Quote Of The Week

People are actually really open to friendship.

From How To Make, And Keep, Friends In Adulthood by Catherine Pearson. Resurfaced by Readwise.

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