The foundation of any good business is value creation. If your business is not creating value for people, there is not much hope for the long-term survival of the business. Above all else, value creation should be at the top of your to-do list.
However, most people do not create a to-do list with value creation in mind. They typically create a list of things they think need to be done, then work down the list and hope to get it all done before the day ends. Some time ago, I noticed that I was doing the same thing, and I found myself wasting a lot of time on things that really weren’t very important. I was working for the sake of being busy.
With that in mind, I decided to try a new method of creating my to-do list that is totally focused on the goal of creating value. I have been using this technique for about two months as I build Lernabit, and have found myself getting a lot more done and moving forward quickly. Below, I show you how to do this for yourself.
Two types of task
The first thing to realize is that not all tasks are created equal. I like to divide tasks into value tasks and supporting tasks.
Value tasks are those that directly create immediate value. For example, publishing a blog post is a value task, because it provides immediate value in the form of free content for my readers.
Supporting tasks are those that do not create immediate value, but are required as part of some other goal that does. For instance, writing the next chapter of an e-book is a supporting task, because it does not create immediate value. The book is not of value to anyone until it is available to download, so simply writing another chapter is not a value task. Putting the finished book on the website is a value task, because that is the point at which it provides value.
Creating the to-do list
When I create my to-do list, I always have one value task and up to three supporting tasks. A normal to-do list might look something like this:
To Do: 9/5/14
Value task: Publish a new blog post.
1. Do research for the next chapter of my e-book.
2. Hire a designer to create a new banner ad.
3. Fix bugs on the site.
The value task doesn’t have to be anything huge. Sometimes, the small ones can create the most benefit to readers. For example, if I know I have a busy day, an easy value task could be scouring news feeds for 10-15 articles my users might enjoy, then schedule them as Tweets over the next few days. Just taking that time to find some cool content shows your followers that you are focused on their interests more than yours.
When I sit down to work for the day, the value task is always the first thing I do. I don’t check email, work on other tasks, or anything else until I have created value. Once I do that, then I move on to the support tasks.
I like to create my to-do list the night before, because it keeps me from sitting down to work and getting distracted by everything that has to be done. By creating my list at the end of the day, I can sit down the next morning and immediately start working on the most important tasks without getting distracted.
I still use a master to-do list with all of the long-term goals I want to accomplish, but the only time I ever look at it is when I am creating my daily to-do list. The master to-do list helps me remember what has to be done in the long run, and I take items from that to create my daily list.
The reason this method works so well is that it forces me to remain focused on the value creation process. If a task does not create value and it does not work toward some other task that creates value, I have to stop and seriously consider whether or not it even needs to be done. This keeps me from wasting time on things I don’t have to do.
Over the last few months, I have been using this strategy to great effect while working on Lernabit. The results have been fantastic, because I have been intensely focused on how I can create more value. This has made my site more useful and enjoyable, because making money has taken a back seat to my objective of creating something useful. Once that is accomplished, the money will follow anyway.