Lifestyle / September 12th, 2016

Success 101 | Daily To-Do List

When you wake up in the morning what’s the first thing you do?

Is it acknowledging your thoughts, dreading the fact you have to get up, suffer through yet another long commute only to arrive at a job you hate?

What’s worse, you probably feel like you’ve done this routine before. Yesterday, in fact…. Not to mention the day before.

If so, you’re not alone. People across the globe are waking up with a mindset that’s pessimistic, looking on with desperation and sadness at what lies ahead.

I was like you and it doesn’t have to be this way.

It was only a few years ago I recall working at a job I hated that transcended into every other area of my life. I lacked energy and took the glass half empty approach to any outcome I came across.

In other words, I was miserable.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out I couldn’t achieve any level of success in this state so I knew changes had to be made. I was ready and willing to try anything at that point. Funny enough, I came to realize just how simple these changes had to be in order to get the wheels of success in motion.

The surprisingly simple solution to kick starting your success is this.

Before going to bed each night, avoid checking the messages on your phone. Don’t go looking for a late night snack or attempt to watch a few minutes of your favorite TV show. None of these things are productive and raise your satisfaction levels only for a short time.

Instead, write yourself a to-do list to act on the following day.

Too simple? Well this is more than just a simple list of tasks to perform for the day. I’m talking about a to-do list with the sole purpose of helping you reach goals you are passionate about. Don’t be listing a set of house chores to complete the next day or emails you have to send out for work. Those to-do lists aren’t driven by passion.

If you’re to-do list lacks passion, you won’t stay committed for the long term.

I took this approach for myself and you wouldn’t believe the difference it made. Having a much better outlook on life became apparent to me, especially seeing my goals slowly becoming reality. I now wake up each morning refreshed and excited to tackle the set of tasks laid out the previous night. With this approach, I know each item I check off takes me that much closer to what I define as success.

So here’s the deal. I created 4 simple steps to follow that will arm you with everything you need to create a daily list that’s:

  • Actionable
  • Motivating
  • Aligned with what you want to achieve in life

Ready to take the plunge? Well you first have to determine what your values are…

Step 1: Define Your Values

Everyone and their grandmother says they know what their values are but I’m not willing to lay any money on that claim.

Could you confidently list your values? Before nodding your head yes, let’s try something out here. Put your values to the test and see if they align with the following scenarios. Ideally, you would say yes to all 4:

  • You become passionately defiant on a specific value (even just on the inside) when someone brings up an opinion that is the direct opposite of it
  • Have the strong need to inform others on this value
  • Get excited about your value whenever you see it in action, read about it or learn more about it
  • Feel a sense of pride when your actions aligned with your values help others

So did your values pass the test?

Hopefully they did. Either way, take some time on step 1 to really know what your values are. This is the most important step as everything that follows will be driven by your values. It’s what keeps your passion high and your motivation consistent. It’s what will make you proud when you look yourself in the mirror and know that your daily actions are making you and the world better in whatever cause you choose to pursue.

Once your values are written down, you’re ready for step 2.

Step 2: Create Goals

Now that you know what your values are, it’s time to create some goals for yourself. Goals, at its purest form are future achievements. They are a bunch of common tasks rolled up into a common theme.

Goals are also unique to everyone.

Do you have a strong need to make the human race healthier and happier? Maybe one of your goals is to become a model of health and happiness that others can aspire to. Are you like Elon Musk and want to make the entire world a better place? Maybe you can get inspiration from his lofty goals and create the first mass produced electric car and a rocket company with the hopes of creating an inter-planetary species.

Whatever your goals are, make them big.

When thinking of your goals, you should feel slightly uncomfortable strategizing how you’re going to accomplish them. Being uncomfortable means you haven’t done something like this before.

Believe me…that’s a great thing.

On another sheet of paper (in list form), list out a set of goals to accomplish 3 months from now, 12 months from now and 2+ years from now. As you should be aware, goals to accomplish within the next 3 months are much easier than the ones greater than 2 years.

Step 3: The List

It’s one thing to have goals in your head but let’s face it. What’s not on paper is just a dream.

You need to put something down on paper, word processer, Google Doc…whatever. It has to be something tangible for it to be a constant reminder to you to action on.

This takes us to the list.

In order to create a To-Do list that is actionable while consistently keeping you motivated, you need to include the following things.

  • A Priority List
  • Brain Dump
  • Injections

Ok, let’s dive a bit deeper on each of these and see how this whole to-do list thing works for me.

Priority List

I know that priority can be defined by how urgently something is EXPECTED to be done and how important this task may be to SOMEONE but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

The number one question you should ask is: “Does this task directly relate to my goals?”

Take a look at your Step 2 goals again. Tasks that directly get you a bit closer should by higher priority, bottom line.

I generally sort my tasks like this:

1 – Something that takes me closer to goal #1 (priority 1)

2 – Something that takes me close to goal #2 (priority 1)

3 – Something that takes me closer to goal #1 (priority 1)

4 – Random important task (priority 2)

5 – Random important task (priority 2)

6 – Somewhat important task (priority 3)

7 – Etc.

Brain Dump

If you’re anything like me, your mind is always racing. I always try to think about improving my life in some way, shape or form.

Sometimes a fresh idea pops into my head. Maybe even something that can be added to a future to-do list.

And then, I forgot what the heck that awesome idea was.

I’ve learned from my past mistakes and found the best way to combat situations like this is with a section on your to-do list called “the brain dump”.

The brain dump is simply an open space within your to-do list to jot down ideas that can come from meetings, your thoughts or something that pops in your head after reading a book. I keep this section open format and try to see if anything can be moved into future to-do lists.

I also love the brain dump as it allows my creative juices to keep flowing while maintaining my excitement to future possibilities.


Like it or not, unexpected crap is going to happen throughout your day that just has to get done. Don’t screw up your existing priority list. Instead put this in the injections section. This section is great because:

  • It doesn’t make you lose focus on what’s most important…. tackling items in priority 1
  • It gives a documented trail of unexpected items in hopes of accounting for them in the future.

Anyone familiar with Scrum will know all about injections. Coming from a project management background, I know how much injections are feared as they can kill timelines and ruin the flow for yourself and the team you lead.

I try to take a birds eye view on injections and see them as a learning experience, not only will injections help me manage my goals in the future, it gives myself a good indication of how well I can handle stress.

So how do you capture injections on your to-do list? Simply log them in a section of your list titled injections as they come up. Asses how urgent they are and really validate if they take priority over items impacting your goals. Ideally, you want to keep your goals top of mind always.

Step 4: Strategy + Consistency = Success

Step 4 is really two mini steps rolled into one. Let’s first talk about strategy.

Creating values which you transition into goals is great but simply transferring tasks into your to-do list is not enough. You need to strategize a bit.

First, you need to take a hard look at your current abilities and realistically asses what’s required to close the gap between present day and achieving your goals. This should be setup with as many small, manageable tasks that’s required.

Next, you have to list the tasks in sequential order. The ones you can accomplish earlier should be added to your to do list first. You keep going until all the tasks are complete. If you do this right, completing all your tasks should be the signal your goal is reached.

That’s where your strategy comes in. Being able to truly see what’s required to reach your goals then breaking them down in sizes you can accomplish in a day is not easy… but it damn sure is effective.

As far as consistency is concerned – it may seem like an easy initiative but is usually the hardest to conquer. They main reason is the fact there’s no end date.

If you want it bad enough, you will perform your tasks every single day until their accomplished. Once complete, you should have an entirely new set of goals to conquer. It truly is a never ending process….but that’s what makes it fun!

Conclusion – Get Started!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a goal junkie or haven’t thought about improving your life (and the world) at all. What’s important is that you get started! The sooner you begin a to-do list the quicker you can make your dreams reality.