You want to work on the things that are important to you…but find yourself spending hours doing other tasks.

You have good intentions…but somehow you can’t get away from email. Once you finally leave the inboxes, you find you have no momentum.

Despite trying to be consistent in your work habits, you’re not finding success. In many cases, the reason is when you make a mistake, you see it as a failure. Once you feel you have failed, then you fall back into old habits.

This feels really discouraging. Would it be better to not try anything new? To just settle for where you are right now and to stop pursuing growth? I know how you feel.

There are many different areas of your life we all want to change. Whether it is managing your limited resources, getting more exercise, watching your diet or something else, we all feel this same tension.

You Really Seek Visible Progress

Instead of worrying about the past, why not do something better today? This is an important part of the growing process. When you experience growth, this will keep you fundamentally happier.

The secret is to know where you’ve made progress. You need to see it visibly and tangibly. This component is why visualization is a very powerful technique. You can see your progress and then it feeds your enthusiasm. As a result, you then feel happy.

One Size Fits Few

Rarely, if ever, is there a solution that works for everyone.

You need to use your brain to process and prioritize items on your to-do list. How you use different tools—and how they fit with your strengths and personality—is unique.

The common solution that works for others is not what you need. We are not all equal. On the contrary, we all have different needs. The key is to find what works for you.

But finding the way that works for you is not free.

There Is a Cost

When someone offers you something for free, you’re thrilled, right? You say, “Sure!” But here’s the thing: free does not exist. Everything costs something. Even a Gmail account or Facebook account has a cost. You may not pay with money, but you pay with something else. You pay with your time. You pay with your attention.

Even the Extra Time Tips are not free. You pay with your attention and your time. (And we are very grateful for these!)

During a workshop at my previous employer, a trainer once said “You always pass the checkout. You always have to pay.”

This logic applies to free as well. You always pay something. But what does this have to do with managing your limited resources? Everything.

You can spend your resources one time.

For a time, I used the Amazon Wishlist to hold one of my incubation lists. It was really easy to create, and no other work required on the wish list. It seemed free, but it really wasn’t.

As a result, I don’t create wishlists anymore. Why not? Because I do not want to pay the price. When I would use an Amazon Wishlist, I would be sent regular updates of the books on my wishlist. When I would see these emails, then I would purchase the books for my Kindle. The truth is I know likely I would not have purchased the books if I had not received an update from Amazon. So having an Amazon wishlist is not really a free service.

Every decision has a cost: it uses mental energy. I want to be deliberate about the decisions I make.

Can I confess something to you? Over the years, I’ve tried about ten different diets. All kinds of diets from counting points to having a diet based on beans and even a cabbage diet (which actually makes you smell like cabbage a week after you stop participating in it).

All of these diets have left me very frustrated because each one was restrictive in nature. The focus is on what you should not eat, or at least should not eat. A restrictive way of eating frustrates me, just like a restrictive way to manage my time and attention frustrates me.

In my Master Your To do list methodology, anything is possible.

There are two important things:

1. What do you want? In other words, what is your desired outcome? The answers to these questions is what drives your decisions regarding Time, Energy, Attention and Money (T.E.A.M.). When you clearly state what you want, then you know whether or not your strategy is working.

Do you want any of the following?

  • More time for yourself
  • More time with loved ones
  • To do more projects
  • To fulfill your commitments

2. Do what it takes to move you closer to your goal. In other words, are you willing to pay the price?

You may want to spend your time checking email many times a day. If you are willing to pay the price, this is your decision to make.

Depending on your desired outcome, there will be other strategies such as imagining, finding, and testing which helps you get closer to your end result.

The Price to Pay

How can you determine what price you are paying for something?

1. You find yourself struggling through a lot of research and books. When you are going through a lot of content on your own, you spend your time stuck in one place instead of moving forward. Not only are you paying in terms of time, but you also are saying no to other opportunities as well.
2. When you experiment, you must determine whether the strategies are moving you to your goals or not. Experiments always make up a portion of the projects on my master list. When I intentionally participate in these experiments, I often find new ways to be more productive.

Now I must admit, sometimes these experiments turn out differently than expected. That’s alright. It is important to keep in mind that just because something works for someone else, it may not work for you.

On the basis of these projects, I put some things fixed that I’m going to do some time in (on). For example, I don’t drink alcohol because it prevents me from thinking clearly. I am not willing to pay the price.

In my calendar, I separate out the items that “have to be done” from the items that “could be done” on a given day. This simple step gives my mind peace. I don’t have to make these decisions when I look at my calendar; the choice has already been made for me.

Once you know the price you are willing to pay, it becomes easier to make a decision.

So here is one thought to consider: what is the price you are willing to pay for what it is you want?