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Success requires you to focus on the right things. Exclusively.

Everyone needs a not-to-do list!

While there are many tools you can use to improve productivity, they are of little value to you until you learn how to best spend your time each day.

At SMARTSTART we use a very simple 3-step strategy I learned from Warren Buffett to determine priorities and actions. I’m confident it will work for you too. Here’s how we do it:

STEP 1:    First, write out your top 25 goals.

You can repeat the exercise using different scenarios and timelines. For example, you can make a list for your life and another for your business. Or you can list the things you want to do today, this week, this month, this year and so on.

By the way, creating a list of goals for your family is also an interesting application of this exercise.

STEP 2:    Next, carefully review your list and circle only the top 5 goals that are most important to you.

This will result in two lists: one with your top 5 picks and the other with the remaining 20 items/goals you did not circle. This is the point where many make a critical mistake in their thinking about goals.

Generally, there is no difficulty understanding circled goals become your primary focus. However, a problem arises from not letting go of the remaining 20 goals. There is a common tendency to want to work on those as well — as interest dictates — time permitting.

But, this is the wrong way to think about it. The second list, containing the 20 items you did not circle, is even more important to your success. These are the goals and activities you must avoid at all costs.

STEP 3:    Assign everything you did not circle (all 20 items!) to your NOT-TO-DO LIST.

You now know definitively what you need to focus on — your top 5 goals. Exclusively.

Do not work on or think about anything on this second list, your not-to-dos, until you have succeeded in achieving your top 5.

I know it will be challenging to let go of the other 20 listed items because they are important to you too. However, by your process of selective elimination, you’ve designated them as less important to you.

For now, they are your most dangerous distractions — capable of completely derailing your progress — just because you loved and valued them enough to include them on your list.

Success requires you to ruthlessly eliminate all distractions and focus on achieving your goals. That’s why you must stop spending time on things you can easily rationalize but that have little payoff because they didn’t make your top 5.

Eliminating the things you care about is very difficult, I know. But it is absolutely essential and the rewards are worth it! The simpler you make things, the better your results will be.

More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.

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