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H ave you ever noticed that things pile up during

the winter? We hunker down to escape the cold—


amidst a stack of belongings we’d usually discard.

One reason is that we are predisposed to conserve re-


sources during cold times in case we need them. An-
other is that we are less active when it’s cold. We sleep
more and move less, for biological and practical reasons. When the sidewalks
and streets are covered with ice, waiting to make that trip to the dump is
probably wiser than risking a broken neck.

But the hibernating and hoarding can only last for so long.

When the weather changes, we sense the need to change with it. Thus the
tradition known as Spring Cleaning, observed under different names in many
different cultures, to help move us to action.

Spring Cleaning often involves plenty of scrubbing but also


pruning of household items.

Old clothes get tossed or donated. Expiration labels in the


refrigerator and cupboard are consulted. We pinch our nos-
es as we dump perishable and perished items. And plenty of
odds and ends get thrown in the trash, sorted into recycling,
or hauled off to the dump.

©2019 Michael Hyatt & Company 2


For most of us, it feels great! We have freshly scrubbed floors. We’re free of
all that clutter. We get to start the new season with a clean slate. We have
more room and, ultimately, more focus to do what matters to us.

Spring is coming!

I think you see where I’m going. If you acknowl-


edge the space around you can benefit from a
good Spring Cleaning—and it can!—then let’s not
stop there.

That’s right, let’s Spring Clean our brains while we’re


at it. Let’s tidy up the calendars that help us plan out
the year ahead and reduce our towering to-do lists
to something that’s actually, well, to-doable.

For most of us, this is badly needed. In the physi-


cal world, the seasonal change reminds us that it’s time to lighten our load
and make way for new things to grow. But few of us take the hint and Spring
Clean our professional load. What that means, practically, is that it’s been
Winter for some of us for a very long time.

But now Spring is coming. What are you going to do about it?

I have one idea. If you want to get clear about those tasks that are cluttering
up your life, tasks that are using far too many of your mental resources, and

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keeping you from focusing on work that matters, then it’s time to commit to
Spring Cleaning your to-do list.

Are you willing to do that? And do you want a clear plan to help you discard
your low-leverage tasks and transform the way you work?

If so, then here’s what I want you to do. It’s just six simple steps. We’ll start
small and work up to the bigger, more glorious picture.

Write it down

F irst, I want you to write down everything you have on your to-do list for
today and everything you’ve already done. Take a few minutes. Think it
over. Make sure you’ve got a comprehensive list. Then step back for a minute
and just look at it.

I bet it’s pretty long, isn’t it? Tasks tend to attach


to leaders like barnacles. They seem small to start
with, but once you say yes, they get much bigger
and are hard to scrape off. Before you start that
scraping, however, go to the next step.

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Desire, drudgery, and the learning curve

F or our second step, I want you to write “desire” or “drudgery” next to


each item, based on your passion and your proficiency. If you love it and
you’re good at it, it’s a “desire” task. But if it’s a grind—something you hate
doing or lack proficiency with, it’s pure “drudgery”.

There are other categories that can be applied, but for Spring Cleaning, it’s
useful to force an either-or for quick clarity. If you can, put tasks in one cat-
egory or the other. For any tasks you can’t categorize yet, it’s okay to label
them TBD, for “to be decided.” But you will have to decide at some point.

You might ask, “But what about things I’m good at but don’t like?” Or, “What
about things I’m bad at but like doing?” But both questions miss something
important: the way that desire bends the learning curve.

If you can do something but you hate it, then it’s probably going to take you
longer than other tasks and you’re unlikely to see more than marginal im-
provement over time. Conversely, if you aren’t great at something but love it,
you are likely to get better at it, faster. In this way, passion actually leads profi-
ciency like a tugboat.

The more tasks you can do fueled by desire, the better. And the fewer tasks
you can do that are a drudgery, the better you’ll feel.

That doesn’t mean you can quit drudgery cold turkey. There are always going
to be things that simply have to get done in your organization. People have to

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get paid. You have to keep the lights on. In a pinch, you are going to have to
do all kinds of things that are a drudgery. But over time, you should work to
delegate, automate, or, best of all, eliminate as many drudgeries as possible.

Look for leverage

I like this third step the best: I want you to set your to-do list to one side.
You’re not quite discarding these tasks but you are going to discard a lot of
them. And you are going to do that by starting another list.

There is no drudgery on this list. This one is a list of the high-leverage proj-
ects you wish you had time and headspace to work on. These are the proj-
ects that get you excited, the ones you know will make a difference in your
business. This is the want-to-do list.

We might call this a best case scenario list, but it’s not pie in the sky. In fact, I
am going to show you how to make it all possible.

Shooting for three

F ourth, now that you have this ideal list in hand, I’m going to show you a
totally new kind of to-do list. I call it My Big Three. Look at your to-do list
and your want-to-do list. Use the want-to-do to inform the to-do. Pick three
items, and only three, that you are going to pursue today.

Here is what you are probably thinking: “Only three? Why?”

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And here is what successful leaders do that overwhelmed ones don’t: They
only try to do a few important things each day. They give themselves permis-
sion to offer undivided focus to a few, results-driving activities before
getting caught in a flurry of low leverage tasks
vying for their attention.

Believe me, I know your follow-up question:


“What about all the other things on my to-do
list?” We’ll come back to those soon, but first our
next step.

One day at a time

Y ou already know what you should be doing today, but what about
tomorrow?

The fifth step is to go back to the want-to-do list you just made. Of the
high-leverage projects you listed, including any that were already on your
to-do list, select three, and only three, to focus on tomorrow.

Again, you’re restricting your focus to the high-leverage items that will drive
big results.

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Narrow your focus

I think you might be able to guess what the sixth step is at this point. Now
that you’ve selected your three most important outcomes for today and
tomorrow, structure your time around those priorities. Defer other tasks, ne-
gotiate your way out of unnecessary meetings, set an email auto-responder
to give you a few uninterrupted hours.

You’ve already determined those three actions are the most critical of your
day. Why would you let yourself get derailed by lower priority items?

Ultimately, the secret to a well-swept task list is a sense of priority. Make it a


practice each day to identify your three most significant outcomes and take
action against those until they’re complete. Do that each day, and pretty soon
you’ve designed a productive week,
month, and even quarter—
three tasks at a time.

priorities

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Toss the rest?
Y ou may object, “Surely, it can’t be that easy!”

First of all, it’s not easy. Pursuing three big tasks every day is hard work. And
of course, it is going to be slightly messier than that. The drudgery will occa-
sionally creep in, but it can be managed and, crucially, reduced using a few
simple strategies.

Many drudgery tasks—like unsubscribing from junk emails or writing respons-


es to common questions—can already be automated. Plus more solutions
emerge every day with new technology and new applications. Get serious
about looking for those tools.

That will still leave some drudgery tasks that have to be done by a person,
but that doesn’t mean you have to be that person. Get comfortable dele-
gating these sorts of tasks, preferably to people who don’t consider them a
drudgery. A lot of us are wired very differently. You’d be surprised how many
people like making phone calls, paying bills, or poring over spreadsheets.

And then there are tasks you will find you have been doing simply because
of inertia—maybe a report you’ve been generating for years that is no longer
needed, or a meeting that’s outlived its usefulness. You started doing them
and you kept doing them out of force of habit and lack of thought. As part of
your big to-do list Spring Cleaning, you can now STOP DOING THEM. Just
throw them out with the other accumulated grime and junk and feel great
about it.

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Why it matters

W hether you’re eliminating, automating, or delegating your drudgery


tasks—getting rid of them is crucial. Why?

Returning to the idea of Spring Cleaning, the reason we declutter is that we


only have so much space available. Crowded cupboards and bursting closets
aren’t just eyesores—they’re also inefficient. It’s easy for items to get lost or
dropped. And precious time is wasted hunting through
all that junk to find the essentials.

The same is true of your task list. There’s only so


much space. You can either prune your list intention-
ally—making informed decisions about the work that
matters and the work that doesn’t. Or you can let the
cupboards continue to overflow and run the risk that
the task that gets dropped is a critical one that com-
promises your results.

By practicing this simple six-step Spring Cleaning, you can free yourself from
the tasks you hate and finally focus on the work that drives results.

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