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Why ‘to-do’ lists don’t work: How to Really Get Results

Why ‘to-do’ lists don’t work: How to Really Get Results

Everything you know about the to-do list is wrong! Let me ask you a question, each week how often do you hear colleagues talk about making a ‘to-do’ list? Once, twice, ten times?

You probably hear it all the time then think “the smart thing would be to make one too, for my day” but the wise thing would be NOT TO!

Be honest with yourself. How effective is a ‘to-do’ list? Does your ‘to-do’ list actually make you productive? Yes? No? Maybe?

If you said no, this article is for you. If you said yes, STOP and don’t read no further. Joking, hear me out as I am about to show you a new and improved ‘to-do’ list. It will guarantee you more productivity, energy and clarity.

First, let’s get familiar with the old school 'to-do' list. I will use Brian as our test subject, typically it looks like this:

Monday To-Do List 

  • Journal 
  • Workout 
  • Emails 
  • Interview 2 new guests 
  • Emails 
  • Make dinner 
  • Sleep 

Looks simple. 

But the real questions you should be asking are: 

Is Brian productive? Is he effective? And is he happy? 

On the surface Brian seems okay. However, in reality, he might be a wreck, not achieving what he really wants. You see, with a do to list you can stack many items and tasks but are you actually getting them done and on time?

I once had an entrepreneur who had an enormous ‘to-do’ list that stretched a month! 

Tell me: how is that productive? It’s not!

How many times have you not finished your ‘to-do’ list for Monday and then moved to Tuesday only to add on more tasks that you can’t and won’t do.

The ‘to-do’ model is broken, obsolete, and should be buried deep in the pits of tartarise.  

The BIG question is simple: what will replace it?

Say hello to the new and improved Outcome list! Think of the Outcome list as if the ‘to-do’ list did some Ayahuasca and had an awakening. The Outcome list builds on your gratification system (RESULTS) and dopamine pathways, which is why it is a much superior approach. 

The Outcome list is not new. I did not invent it. But I would like to think I've added my personal Ameer touch.

So how do you use the outcome list? 

You first must answer three questions from Anthony Robbins. These three questions will prime you for your month. My Outcome list is always in one month chunks. A result is the target you are after, the specific measurable result or outcome that you want to achieve (not the activity to get it done, but the actual result you are after). 


1. What do I really want?

2. What is my outcome?

3. What is the specific result I’m committed to achieve?

Next, you need to answer your weekly questions. This approach is top-down because everything should flow from your vision for your business/life:  

Vision ⇒  Goals ⇒ Weekly Outcomes ⇒  Actions ⇒  Realised Results  

The steps for this approach are fairly simple:  

1. When planning your week, think of the four or five outcomes that would help you make progress on your business goals. 

2. For each outcome, brainstorm action items that will help you achieve that outcome.

3. Put a number next to the “MUST ITEMS”—the ones you want to make sure you absolutely do. Say you have eight action items, you might designate three of them as “MUST ITEMS”. 

I would recommend the action items be no more than three. Anything past that will overload your psyche. I suggest doing a brain dump for as many action steps you think you need. And then reduce. Reduce and simplify until you get three. 

Gary Keller talks about this in his book, The One Thing. Your mind and willpower can only handle so much. So scale your outcomes on priorities of importance, 1-10 (10 being highest) and make sure that Outcome is priority on your Outcome list.

The whole point of the Outcome/result list is that you are not bound by time but results - your only goal is the outcome! And this is why it is crucial to have your most important outcome at the top.

There are many days when my whole Outcome list isn’t finished. But my #1 outcome for the day is! The old saying, “less is more” is TRUE!

And here at London Real, it’s about the journey right? One step at a time, getting results.

I challenge you to start doing Outcome/Result lists instead of the ‘to-do’ lists. Don’t wait, do it now!  


I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes 

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu