Take Daily Action: Throw Away Your To-Do List and Opt for Something Better

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

If we want to ensure our futures, we must take daily action toward our goals. So, how do you take daily action? Most would naturally choose to create a check list or a to-do list. It turns out these aren’t as useful as you might think.

You’ve got your to-do list and you tell yourself you’re ready to get the day started – yet when you look at your list, you start to feel the tasks are too great. Suddenly, that list you made 5 minutes earlier doesn’t seem as simple as you remember it being.

To do lists are essentially, poorly planned wish lists. You’ve created something that has no limits on time, is a scrambled mess of ill-proportioned importance, and keeps you from a regular schedule. The easiest way to keep yourself on track during the week, is to sit down at the beginning of each week and create a schedule of what needs to be done. A schedule can help you better manage your time, plan your days, and finish your work when you want to be finished.

Think about when you’re in school: you’re given a syllabus on the first day of every class. No matter what class it is, the teacher will always talk about the things he or she has planned for you to do by the end of the class. Your stomach begins to sink as the reality of all you need to do washes over you – it’s always concerning.

But then, something happens: at the end of the syllabus there is this coherent schedule of when everything is due and you begin forming an understanding of where it all fits – then you begin creating your own schedule in your mind. Somehow, what was concerning at first seems a lot easier now. Creating daily action steps keeps us from freezing up and scrambling to figure out what we need to get done that day. When we have a plan and a schedule, it becomes as simple as sticking to that plan without having to wonder what comes next.

Alan Fine, author and motivational speaker, writes, in his book You Already Know How to Be Great: A Simple Way to Remove Interference and Unlock Your Greatest Potential, of how he was able to overcome his inability to move forward: he speaks of a mountain climbing trip and a fear of heights. When he began climbing the actual mountain, and it got steeper and steeper, he started freezing up out of a fear of his own life and the lives of those he was attached to. On either side of him was an enormous drop that one wrong move could have easily sent himself and those he was connected with, hurtling toward their deaths.

That’s enough to stop anyone cold in their tracks, though he was able to willfully overcome it by focusing on the smaller things: he focused on the footprint of the person in front of him and kept his eyes from wandering anywhere else, knowing that at some point he’d reach the top if he could only keep doing that.

This situation, as Fine points out in his book, is certainly a good metaphor for business. Though you rarely have to worry about business partners dying, building a business is very much like climbing a mountain and it helps to put all of your effort into daily action steps you’ve created rather than feeling the task is too great in its entirety.

Every week, or before you go to bed the night before, create a daily schedule with 5 things you want to get done. It doesn’t have to be rigid, as life is constantly throwing us curveballs, just make it and complete it. Focus on the smaller things right in front of you that will lead up to the larger ones.

A common analogy of life is that it is like a puzzle: you have the bigger picture in the back of your mind, but your focus is on how all of the little pieces fit together.

Are you willing to figure out how to put your pieces together?