An oppressive to-do list can make getting out of bed feel like slavery. Sure, you’d be fine with one big stinking harry task. But 5 tasks, with varying deadlines, 2 for your job, 1 for your side business, 1 with personal finances, another for your son or daughter.
There’s two responses to this predicament:
1. The Typical Human Response.
2. The Corporate Athlete Response
The typical human response is to procrastinate for as long as possible and then sprint to complete only the tasks with urgent deadlines and putting off the not-so-urgent-but-most-important-for-your-future tasks for later. Unfortunately later never happens and most of these end up in the trash heap.
Then the typical human responds in this order of operations:
1. Give up on goals and go back to day-today existence until an external event renews your future aspirations.
2. Start again and quickly wish you could hire other people to do these things for you.
3. Dial up the discipline to wake up earlier, get shit done, and make enough money to hire said people.
The problem is, this doesn’t work. Because your motivation is coming from self-loathing instead of self-love. Because there’s no guarantee that the people you hire will do what you want them to do in the timespan you want them to do it. And because sprinting straight out of bed leads to exhaustion and eventual burnout.
The dirty little secret is that the more successful you are at completing tasks, the more tasks increase, exponentially. It’s like a hydra.
Now, about the corporate athlete. Let’s start with some definitions.
Corporate is a body of multiple moving parts, whether it be the different parts of ones life or the staff they hire.
Athlete is not just strength, not just speed, not just endurance–it’s someone who has all three and can aim at a target, or multiple moving targets.
The Corporate Athlete knows about burnout, so they handle things differently from the typical human.
Corporate athletes surgically cut through day-to-day tasks, strategize for the future, and train motivated employees to get other tasks done for them. All while staying motivated, rain or shine, sick or healthy, day after day.
Here’s their formula for you to start using: The 3 Ws.
You sit down in front of your To-Do Inbox (I’ll explain “To-Do Inboxes” in a future article) and answer these three questions:
1. Why do I want to do this task?
2. Where do I want to do this task?
3. When do I want to do this task?
This is all about making a choice “what do I want?” to align your motivation and set a realistic plan for you to be able to execute it. Here's an example and elboration to make it more practical:
Patrick's Task: Publish Corporate Athlete Article On My Blog (Started as a ramble in my notes app)
-Why do I want to do this task? It will help the all the people who are currently scrolling and procrastinating when they come across this article. At least 30 people maybe a lot more.
-Where do I want to put this task? I will put it in a google doc (wrote this initially on my notes app) and save the google doc url to the DYSLR section of my notion dashboard.
-When do I want to do this task? I will complete it after I finish setting up the table in 25 minutes.
Here are some elaborations on each question to make this easier since every task is different.
1. Why do I want to do this Task?
What money will it bring me?
What time will it save me?
Who will it help? How many people?
What future task or project will this afford?
2. Where do I want to do this task (digitally)?
Where will I store the file?
Where will I write this?
Where will I store all the links?
Where will I be able to easily access this one click away?
3. When do I want to do this task (in my calendar)?
Is there an absolute deadline?
Before or after the other thing in my schedule?
How much time will it take?—Is it possible to cut the time in half?
I know what you’re thinking. This is worse than your actual to-do list. Your 3 tasks just became 9 tasks.
Yes, but no. Think of the Abraham Lincoln quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Not only does sharpening the axe make the actual tree chopping go quicker, but more importantly, it makes it more enjoyable. Something you want to do and want to return to. It doesn’t take discipline. It feels like play, like exploration, like a journey toward a destination.
Like I said, there’s isn’t such thing as getting to the end of a to-do list. The better you get at them, the more they increase.
When you hire others to do tasks for you, it becomes crucial to entice them to want to do the tasks. Yes, money will sit their ass in the seat to do the work. But for them to do their best work on time, you want them to want to do it. Managing people is about answering these 3 W questions for them ahead of time.
In the face of a long complex to-do list the worst thing to do is to rush to the task.
Instead, to review, ask yourself: Why do I want? Where do I want? When do I want?
Now go have fun being a corporate athlete. -Patrick