To-Do List > Vision

I’ve heard tons of business ideas. I have tons of business ideas. It doesn’t matter. When I first started on this entrepreneurial journey, I was told, “Businesses are 1% ideas, 99% execution”. I think that’s generous. Businesses are .1% ideas, 99.9% execution. The same holds true for getting in shape, breaking an addiction, getting out of debt, saving more money, and [insert anything you want to accomplish here].

This applies to making more money.

So what does execution mean? How do you do it? Seems like a ‘dumb’ question but it’s not. Execution is hard. It can slip away from you in a matter of moments. It’s shifty. You get a rhythm for a day and then it’s gone. It’s unnatural. We like to think, talk, and dream – these are all enemies of execution. Execution is doing. That’s it. And, in my world, doing requires a ‘to-do list’.

Here are some execution tips that have helped me over the past few years.

Pick your ‘to-do’ tool: Pen and pad is fine. That’s what I use. If you like apps, try the free version of Evernote. Our lead developer swears by it. I’ve seen people use post-it notes. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you build the list.

Split your Lists based on importance and time: I have 3 lists.

  • Long term  –  do it in the next few months
  • Near term – do it in the next few weeks
  • Should have done this already – just do it  

If I think, hear, or even imagine that I need to do something, it goes on one of the lists. Buy a gift, write an email to someone, write this post, buy some socks – they’re all on a list. Once it’s on a list, it’s out of my mind. That helps with stress.

Each day, build a ‘today list’, and do it today: Every night, I set aside 15 minute to write down what I need to do the next day. I’m pulling from the three lists above. I’m prioritizing. I’m figuring out what I can get done that day. If a task is large, I break it into smaller segments. In the morning I review the list. Then, I do it. No excuses, no distractions. I stay up late if needed. I get more efficient. I learn what I can accomplish in a day and adjust accordingly. Nothing gets in the way of ‘today’s list’. When new things come up during the day, I don't do them. I put them on one of the three lists and follow my process. It's working.

Set aside time to think/dream: I dream on car rides. That’s it. If I’m not in the car, I’m executing. If I need more time to dream, I put it on the list, "Drink Beer, Dream Big  –  30 minutes". Then I enjoy it!

Find what works for you: You don’t need to follow my method. I’m a little eccentric. Figure out what works for you. Get better than you were yesterday.

Here are a few blogs that may be helpful as you figure out what works for you.

Tim Ferriss

He wrote the 4-Hour Workweek. It’s about being smart and efficient with your time. It has some good points. You can also find a ton of content on his blog.

Seth Godin

He’s coined as a marketing genius but I see more than that. He helps you think critically about how your choices impact you. Subscribe to the blog. Read it. Many of the posts will be helpful.

Ramit Sethi

He’s the next Suzy Orman (in the good way). Great personal finance advice, specifically on how to make more money. He’s direct and sometimes crass but helpful.

Mastermind Project

Really like this blog. It’s simply a group of guys who hold each other accountable. Accountability is hard. They’ve found a way to do it together.

It probably feels like I took all the fun out of the journey. I know. But, it’s working. I’m making progress. I enjoy the car rides where I can think and dream. I’m sleeping better. I’m less stressed. I’m completely consumed by the 99.9% and know the .1% will soon be a reality.

What helps you execute better? How do you get organized so you can do the 99.9%? What are some roadblocks that get in the way and how do you overcome them?