Not getting your to-do list done each day, here is why

Often I run into agents who want to talk about how they never get anything done. They think all they need is a new system or a new program to make it all better.
More often than not the problem is not with the systems, the problem is with the work they are doing.

If you find yourself failing to get things done, I’m fairly certain that one of two things is happening. Either you are trying to do to many things, or you really just don’t like what you are doing.

If it is the later, if you really don’t like what you are doing, you have two options. You need to either learn to outsource or delegate the items you don’t like to do, or just don’t do it, and find something else to do. Life is to short to spend most of your day doing something you dislike.

But what I want to focus on is the person who has to many things on their plate. The person with the to-do list with hundreds of items that grows more than it shrinks each week.

Stop, just stop

Here is a little exercise I want you to do. It is similar to the Warren Buffet way to success with a little twist of my own.

First thing I want you to do is write down a list of everything you want to accomplish. Vacation, new business, run a marathon, get a promotion, launch a project, get a certification, finish school… Whatever you can think of that you want to accomplish over the next year, two years or five years.

Now look at the list and boil down a top ten. What are the top ten things you want to accomplish on that list if you could only do ten.

Now that you selected ten write them down on a desperate sheet. Look at them, study them, pray about them, really think about them.

Now number them in an order of importance to you from 1–10. Take a night and sleep on it if you need to. Make sure you are happy with your order.

Now split the list into two. On one sheet put the top five things you want to accomplish. After that you can stop. Yup, stop there.

Now you have your priority list.

What next

Now that you have your priorities you are going to focus on them and forget everything else on you list. Yes forget them. Why?

Because that’s your problem, you are spreading yourself to thin as it is. You have to much going on. If you add them back to your to-list you are going to end up right back in the same place. Wondering why you never get anything done.

Now you need to start working on that list ever day. And only with what is on your list.

The next step

Don’t get bogged down in your long lists though. Ask yourself every morning, what are three things I want to accomplish today. What are three outcomes I want to achieve. Not necessarily three to-do items, but an outcome that you want to achieve or complete.

That is your to-do list for today. Achieve those three things, achieve them first before you do anything else. Then if you have more time move onto other tasks.

The key is though, stay on task and don’t do anything that moves you away from your top five list.

Your takeaway

If you are not happy with your productivity:
* Stop doing things you hate to do, even if that means finding a new line of work
* Write down everything you want to do and accomplish
* Pick the top five things from that list
* Eliminate everything else
* Every morning pick three outcomes you want to achieve that move you slowly towards your five
* Do those three first, before anything else
* Rinse and repeat and win!


Photo credit Flickr creative commons

How moving away for GTD and to-do list made me more productive

So for as long as I can remember I have been setting New Years resolutions and goals. There was actually one year I achieved my resolution, that was the year my New Years resolution was to not make a resolution.

Wait. Now that I think about it, I failed there too. Grrrrr.

The best part is at the end of this post I give you a sure-fire way to make sure you accomplish your goals this year.

A few months ago I switched things up a lot.

I have had a looooooooong to do list for a long time. I have managed my to do list in Evernote, and am glad I do.

I also have been a long time admirer of David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done).

My only problem with my system has always been I spend way to much time managing my system. GTD is a great system, and Dan Gold has a great and inexpensive ebook on running your GTD system in Evernote (affiliate link), but it is not for everyone.

At the end of the day I often wondered, what did I get done today? I never really feel like I was moving the ball forward enough even when I check off a long list of task items every day.

Things have changed for me in a big way

Recently things have changed, and I could not be happier.

I have completely got away from being run by my to-do list and now I focus on desired outcomes.

This is not an understatement, since I moved to an outcomes system I have upped my productivity by at least threefold, if not more.

How does outcomes work?

So you may be wondering how does this outcomes thing work? The amazing thing about it is, it is so simple.

What I did was figure out three things I wanted to accomplish over the next year.

Then I gave myself a couple of big goal or outcome for the month. And of course that goal/outcome was working to get me towards my overall outcome for the year.

Every Sunday night, when I do my weekly review, I think of three things I want to accomplish this week. Not a to-do item, but a completed outcome that moves the ball closer on my monthly outcomes list.

And to break it down even further, every morning I come up three outcomes in my business I want to accomplish today, and one personal outcome.

I always make sure there is one personal outcome too so I make sure not to over focus on business and forget my personal life and health and fitness.

I also make sure that the first things I do every day are those outcomes for the day. Nothing else gets done before them. This does take some discipline. I can assure you after you start seeing the results multiply it becomes a lot easier.

I first started doing this system a few months ago and the outcomes have been fantastic. In a months time I accomplished more towards the growth in my business that I had accomplished in six months before that. I had a laser focus on the outcome and a daily reminder of what that outcome was.

A problem I ran into

The system was not without it’s problems early on. One example is a bathroom I was trying to remodel.

One of my outcomes for the week was finish the remodel job on the bathroom. It was started already, I just needed to clean the walls down, paint, get the toilet in and get the new vanity in.

Really wasn’t that much more work.

On Sunday night I set the goal and on Monday I set the outcome of working on the bathroom. Well I didn’t really get any work done on Monday. Then the next day I set the outcome of finishing the bathroom. Again not much in the way of results.

This was a new system and obviously wasn’t working the way I wanted. Then the next day I took a closer look at the system. I set my outcomes for the day smaller which was to dust all the walls off. I ends up dusting the walls off and taping everything off. The next day my goal was to paint it. Which I did and the next day the goal was to get the vanity in.

Before I knew it my weekly goal of finishing the bathroom was done.

What I have learned

I have learned it is indeed important to keep your why front and center. If you want the goal of making $10,000/month that goal is very hollow for most people. But if your goal is to be able to take your family on a cruise in six months and get health insurance for your family. Well to do that you need to make the $10k a month, but the emotional connection of why you want to do it is much greater than a dollar symbol. So make your outcome the trip and the health insurance, not the $10k/mo.

Set an aggressive monthly goal that is attainable and really break that down. I have learned how quickly you can really get things done if you just do something, one small thing a day to move you towards your goal.

I had a marketing goal for this month that was something I had been wanting to do for close to a year now. I set it as an outcome for January, and every day I have done just a little something to move the ball forward on it. Well today is the 8th day of the month and after today’s outcomes are complete I will have completed this item that had seemed so big to me in the past that I kept putting it off.


Want to totally kick butt on your “goals” or “resolutions” for 2013? Here is what I would recommend you do, and if you do it I can almost assure you that at the end of the year you will win.

First take a look at those goals and resolutions again. Figure out the why. Why do you want to accomplish this, what does it really mean. Why do you want to make $10,000/month. Why do you want to have three closings a month. What does that really mean to you. What would you really do if you hit those goals.

Now take that why such as “I would buy health insurance and take a cruise” and make those your outcomes instead of the goal of $10k/mo.

Now break that down and figure out something that you can complete in January to move your towards that goal. Maybe a new marketing campaign you have been putting off. Maybe a new website overhaul. Whatever it is make that an outcome for the month. When you have completed it, it will have moved you towards your outcome of the health insurance and cruise because it is getting you in position to make more month.

Now break that down a little further into what I need to complete this week and finally three things I need to do today, in which at least one of them has to be something that moves you towards your weekly outcome.

And finally now that you have your three outcomes for today. Do them. Do them now. Stop reading email, stop looking at Google Plus and Facebook, stop everything else. Get those three outcomes for today done now, then worry about all the other little things.

This system has really recharged me.

If you feel like this system is something you want to implement but really need help doing, contact me here and see if maybe I can help.

PS about two months after I started this system I was introduced to a system called the “Agile System.” The Agile system is very similar to what I do, but has a lot more to it. You may want to read about it, but for me after I read it I saw many similarities, but my system was just a lot more simple and the basic parts of the Agile System.


Photo credit creative commons flickr

Evernote as a to-do task manager

The most common questions I get about my Evernote book for real estate revolve around my to-do and task management systems in Evernote.

The more I try to explain what I do, the more I realize the best way to demonstrate it is to show it live.

When I try explaining the most common reaction is blank stares and confusion. When I demonstrate it lights seem to come on.

I have used many great to-do apps such as Wunderlist and Clear, but none have the power and flexibility as Evernote does with tagging.

So here is a video of me using my to-do system. Let me know what other videos you would like to see.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON VIDEO BELOW: If you are having a hard time seeing it, make video full screen and allow it to play for about 15-20 seconds and the video will clear up nicely.

Managing my to-do and task management with Evernote tags

In my last post I talked about the difference between what tags and notebooks were in Evernote.

Today I am going to show you how I handle all my task management and to-do items inside Evernote using tags.

Most of this is straight from my book “Evernote for Real Estate: The Complete Guide.” As I mention in the book:

This is probably the single most important item to master to really become an Evernote ninja.

My task management workflow with tags

All of my to-do items end up in my “Master Next Action” notebook. Every item in there is tagged with an appropriate tag.

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Here is a screenshot of my tagging system for my to-do. I have more tags, but these are the tags that manage my task management and workflow.

My to-do and task management system is very much a hybrid of many systems I have read about over the years with strong influence from Daniel Gold and Mark Stout. Make sure you check out their websites for more productivity tips.

My first seven tags are for the seven days of the week.  I start them with 01, 02, etc. to keep them in order as they would otherwise be ordered alphabetically.

You may think differently and start your week with 01 Sunday, that is the great thing about Evernote, it is flexible to your workflow system.

My next three tags are my to-do items for today.

If today were Tuesday, then first thing Tuesday morning I would click on the tag 02 Tuesday and review each task in containing the tag. Each note would then be retagged with either 11 Today A, 12 Today B or 13 Today C.

These are my standard priority tags.  Again, you may work different and use different tags.

I will complete all of my A items before I even look at my B items and then all of my B items before I even look at C.

Here is a screenshot of what I see.

Evernote to-do tag shortcuts

Notice the shortcuts for each of the today items right at the top for one click task management.

The way I try to work is each morning I try to pick out 3-5 things that are absolute must do items for the day. If nothing else gets done, these need to. Those are my 11 Today A items.

Then I look at all the other items for the day and decide what do I want to get done vs. what would be nice to get done, but can be pushed off. These are my 12 Today B and 13 Today C items.

Next we have 21 Next Week and 31 Next Month. When I have a task that I know will be due next week, or one that will not be needed until next month, they are placed with these tags.

These items are reviewed at the beginning of each week and each month during my weekly review to determine where they will go.

Then we have 41 Someday Work and 42 Someday Home. These are items that I probably want to get to someday, think of the Someday Maybe list if you are GTD fan. I will occasionally check on these and see if anything I want to act on.

Next we have my 51 Waiting, this is an action item where I am waiting on someone else to complete something first. I check this once a week during my weekly review.

Then we have 61 Read. These are items I want to read that I have saved for when I have time. When I am in line at a store, or sometimes at night, or sitting on a bus/train etc. I will break this list out. Most are web clippings I have saved.

The final tag is 99 Completed To Do. I will explain how I use this below.


My daily workflow 

Let’s take a quick look at what a day may look like.

You will see below that for Monday I have 8 items to complete for the day.

Evernote to-do tags

The first thing I will do is determine what are the most important items. If an emergency comes up later in the day, at least these items will be completed.

The first item is my Evernote ebook.

This item is currently tagged with 01 Monday and in the “Master Next Action” notebook.

This is a high priority item, and I am going to quickly delete the 01 Monday tag and replace it with 11 Today A.

When I do that, it disappears from my 01 Monday list. Next up is my “Thompson’s business” note.


In this note I have a link to another note. This is very common for me with my tasks that repeat or are a long project. The reason there is a link is because the “Business Ideas for Thompson’s” is a very long list and will not be completed in one short day, but is more of an ongoing project management thread. If it was a single action then it would probably be just one note and not a link.

To give you an example of how that would work, let’s say I get an email from my broker and it says, “Call Michelle at 480-555-1234. She is interested in talking about joining the brokerage.” When I get that email I would forward it to Evernote, and if I was to make that call on Monday I would tag it with “01 Monday.” Now on Monday morning, I would decide if that was an A, B or C item and that note would just be a single note, different than the business list note for Thompson’s. In this case this would also be an 11 Today A item for me, and I quickly change the tag.

After I change all the tags for Monday to my A, B or C, I then head over to my shortcut for 11 Today A and you will see I have three items for the day.

Now let me stress this, the amount of time it takes me to change a dozen tags is probably somewhere around 90 seconds. This is a very quick action.

After I complete an item for the day, if it is an item I am done with and doesn’t need any further action, like write a blog post, it is moved to the new tag 99 Completed To Do. If it is an item I am done for today, but I am going to need to work on again, I will move it to another tag such as 02 Tuesday, or whenever I need to follow up with it again.

It takes less than 2-3 seconds to change a tag; this is a very quick process.

After all the items in A are completed, I move over to B and work the same procedure and then follow that up with C.

At the end of the day I look at all the items I have remaining, hopefully all in the C tag. I decide if I want to leave them there for tomorrow, or do I want to move them up a level for tomorrow, or maybe I want to schedule it out further in the week, and I will quickly give it the appropriate tag.

About once a week I quickly go through my 99 Completed To Do tag and see if anything needs to be kept for future reference. Most of the time the answer is no and the items are deleted.

I have tried a few different systems, and this is the system that works the quickest and most efficiently for me.