How To Get Things Done

I want to talk about the best way that I have found to get things done. A long time ago I read a book called Think and Grow Rich.  Then I read another book called How To Win Friends and Influence People.  I read them both several times.

I am not sure which book had the following paraphrased story in it, but it is the one thing that has really stuck with me and helped me. There were a lot of other things in each of those books that were pretty good.  I should go back and re-read both of them.  Here's the story as I remember it.

Andrew Carnegie (the big shot behind what eventually became U.S. Steel, and the richest man in the world at the time) hired a consultant to come in to help him be more efficient in getting things done.   The consultant gave him the following list:

1) Write down on paper the five most important things you want to get done today in order of their importance.

2) Begin your workday with the first thing on your list.  When you are done with it cross it off the list and move to #2.

3) Continue on down the list until you have completed all of your tasks.

Carnegie could not believe the advice he was given. He was almost outraged, but the consultant told him to try it and if he saw no value in it then he should not pay him.  If he did find value in it then he should send a check for whatever he felt it was worth.  Carnegie gave it a shot.  After one month he sent the consultant a check for $25,000.00, a huge amount of money in the 1920's.

I have found that this is the absolute best way to get things done too. It helps to keep you focused. In this day and age of the internet and cell phones and all of the other shiny things available to capture our attention it is a wonder that anyone gets anything done at all in a day.

If I make a list of things to do, those things get done.  Period. Even if I ignore the list for a while.  It has a magical power of drawing me back to it.  I may not do all of the things on the list in one day.  I may not even accomplish all of the tasks I have written down "in order of importance", but I get the list done.  When that list is done I make another list.

I keep one of those cheap spiral notebooks that kids use in school open on my desk where I work.  On that open page the list sits.  And sits.  And slowly I get into it.  I find that once I have one thing done, the second thing on the list gets accomplished much faster.  As I cross each one off (or put a check mark next to it to tell me it is completed) I have a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes I can complete the list in a few hours.  Sometimes it takes three days.  But the list gets done.

If you are frustrated with your inability to really get the things that you want out of life and you are not using a list then you may want to try this.  Don't be fooled by it's simplicity.

Jack Folsgood