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Forget the to-do list. Do less, get more

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your ‘daily to do list,’ and are desperately looking for a more efficient and less stressful way to get things done, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we will learn tips and tricks to achieve success while maintaining a relatively stress-free life. These tips have been collated from a wide range of sources – Nikola Tesla, Tim Ferriss, Bees etc.

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So, let's go ahead and get started –

First of all, it's totally understandable that ‘to do lists’ can make you feel overwhelmed, stressed out at times even guilty!

Did you know?

Research has shown that, on average, tasks take 2 - 3 times longer than what we initially planned for. Therefore, oftentimes, we end up not being able to accomplish all the things that we had planned for the day or the week. Running out of time further adds to the stress of the ‘to do list.’

So, is there a better way to organize your work so that you are more productive?

Yes, there is!

An amazing book called, ‘From good to great’ analysed what helped “average” company make the transition to a “great” company. Their conclusions are applicable for your personal success as well.

One key take away was that your ‘stop to do list’ is more important than your ‘to do list.’

What is 'Stop To Do List'?

It’s not the case that an average company which has mediocre doesn't have a lot of things to do. On the country, they're often times overwhelmed by the number of tasks they are required to accomplish. On the other hand, great companies narrow their focus to what’s really important. They prioritise their efforts to accomplish this primary task. Only then, they start doing something else.

In fact, they intentionally create a ‘stop to do list’ which contains the list of tasks that they should actually stop doing.

You can apply the same technique for yourself. Very often, we create a list of goals that we wish to achieve. However, very rarely, do we think about things that we should stop wasting our time on. Yet, these 2 things are very interconnected - in order to be able to make time for achieving critical priorities, we need to make ourselves free from less important tasks.

Albert Einstein was once asked, “How does it feel to be the greatest genius of all times?” He replied, “I don't know. Ask Nikola Tesla.”

From the time I was a teenager, I was obsessed with studying biographies of highly successful people - people that made significant contributions to humanity. After studying numerous such personalities, I too think that Tesla is one of the greatest geniuses of all times! He actually came up with hundreds (if not thousands) of different inventions. In fact, the name of the modern day automobile manufacturer - ‘Tesla’ - pays homage to this incredible inventor.

Amongst other great ideas, Tesla believed that, in the future, people would imitate the incredibly efficient bees in the way they organize their work.

So, let’s dig deeper into this hypothesis –


How are bees better organized?

Bees decide what task is their priority in order to make their colony thrive.

Their priority task is to lay eggs.

The queen bee lays eggs. Therefore, the entire of colony dedicates its efforts to protect the queen bee and search for food.

You could apply the same principles for your life.

Tim Ferriss, the author of ‘4-Hour Workweek’ achieve so much in so little time. He said that, earlier he used work long weeks and had long ‘to do lists.’ He used to feel stressed out and overwhelmed. He then realised that things are not working out. He applied the 80-20 rules – he now focuses on the 20% of tasks that produce 80% of the results. Therefore, he does not do small ‘to do lists’ anymore. Instead, he focuses on 1 task that has the potential of having the greatest impact on his business or income. He makes sure that this 1 task is done no matter what. Once this task is done, he feels like his day has been productive.

You could do the same. Make a list of tasks that need to be done. You may find that 1 amongst the rest of the tasks has the potential of having a greater impact than the rest of the tasks.

Let me give you another example –

Perhaps you have a list of goals that you would wish to accomplish this year. Maybe have them written down or you just in your mind.

Think about this –

Which goal, if accomplished, would have the greatest positive impact on your life?  It may be a financial goal or maybe even a personal once such as to resolve a certain health or relationship issue. Oftentimes, if you are able to achieve this one goal, you will be able to positively affect other areas of your life simultaneously.

For example, 50% of the divorces happen due to financial difficulties. So, if you can sort out your financial goal, you may be able to help other areas in your life too. In fact, on average, richer people live longer. A sad reality, but true. This is perhaps because having money can help you afford better medicines.

Therefore, achieving your financial goal can have a catapulting effect on your lifestyle, happiness, relationship, health etc.

So, ask yourself – ‘What is the single most important goal for this year?’

Apply the same for your daily tasks too – ask yourself, ‘If there is only 1 task that I need to do today, what is the most important one?’

For example, if it is for your financial goal, ‘What action has the potential to double my income?’

If you scan you ‘to do list’ with this lens, you will realise that a large majority of the tasks on the list don't have the potential to increase your income significantly.

Take away – instead of trying to accomplish a whole range of tasks every day, focus on 1 that really matters. All other tasks don't take top priority.

Instead of complicating your life long ‘to do lists,’ simplify your life and start doing less. Have a ‘stop to do list.’ Eliminate tasks that don't really matter so that you can free up the time for your primary job – for your “queen bee role.”

Let me give you a quick analogy –

Imagine that the president of a country would say that he has decided to spend his day eliminating the clutter in his house. Even though, it may seem like an important task, the president probably has more critical tasks at hand that pertains to the lives of millions of people he is responsible for.

It could very well be the same for your situation – yes, there may be tasks that are nice, but are secondary.

So, what are the common secondary tasks that you need to stop doing?

It could be time wasters. For example, an average person checks his mobile phone 100 times every day people spend. People spend close to 30 hours on social media every week! Many people also spend crucial hours every day watching TV. Not doing these activities can free up your time.


You may also require a ‘mind-set’ change to free up time. Common mistakes include:

  1. Micro-management – if you’ve delegated a task to someone else, but still end up monitoring closely, you have essentially lost the purpose of delegating.
  2. Perfectionist – when you spend too much time polishing the work that is actually already done.
  3. ‘I got to do it myself’ attitude - the truth is, very often, we can delegate the tasks to other people who would be able to do an equally (if not better) good job as yourself.
  4. Information overload – nowadays, we receive so many tips and guidelines from various different sources that make can confuse and clutter your mind. Just stick to 1 source and go through with it.


You may be wondering, “Okay, I may be able to categorise my secondary tasks, but they still need to be done. Who is going to do them?”

The answer is – Delegate!

delegate your tasks

You should delegate any task, that can be delegated at an hourly rate which is lower than yours. You may already know your hourly rate. If not, divide your annual income by 2000 (assuming you work 40 hours week) – this is your hourly rate roughly.

If you can find someone who can do a particular task at an hourly rate lower than yours, do so. In case, it is not an expense. Rather, it is an investment – because you are able to free up your time to concentrate on tasks that can maximise your income.

Scan through your ‘to do list’ and figure out which tasks can be delegated – you will find that most of them can be delegated at a relatively low cost.



How can you eliminate the ‘to do list?’

Focus on doing fewer things that yield greater results. To do this, answer the following questions:

  1. What is the one goal, if achieved, will have the greatest positive impact on your life?
  2. What is your “Queen Bee” role - your primary job?
  3. What are things you should stop doing to free up your time for your queen bee role?


P.S I would love to hear your thoughts – share in the comments section below. If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends by clicking the sharing icons below.

Igor Smirnov

Igor Smirnov

Psychologist, blogger, chess Grandmaster, Internet entrepreneur. Follow Igor on Facebook

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