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Should You Toss Your To-Do List?

Nettie Owens, founder of Sappari Solutions, says you should toss out your to-do list. Then she gets really specific about what she wants us to do instead. I’ll admit, I was a little taken aback and a lot intrigued when Nettie said she wanted to tell my business audience that our to-do lists are holding us back. But after listening to her, I’m a believer!

Listen to the podcast episode here:


Ruthie: In this episode we’re going to talk about something that I have a love-hate relationship with, the to-do list. I asked you about some topics that you thought would resonate with a business audience. When you said, “Throwing out my to-do list to be more productive” I was like, “Wait…I’m not supposed to have a to-do list?!”

That’s a whole industry on its own: the planner industry! If I’m not making a to-do list, what am I supposed to be doing

Nettie: I love this question! It definitely stops the presses when I say that you should toss out your to-do list, so your response is completely normal. 

Is Your To-Do List Controlling You?

I have a feeling that you have much more amazing things you should be doing, other than sorting out a to-do list. This is coming from somebody that loves making to-do lists. I love checking them off and everything!

However, when that becomes the primary focus, it becomes unproductive in and of itself. I see people become so married to their to-do list, that any deviation from it almost is panic-inducing! That’s certainly not the reason for making it to-do lists. 

I’ve also noticed that people often have other people’s agendas on their to-do list. So it’s not necessarily what’s moving your business forward, but it’s filled with requirements and deadlines that other people have imposed on you.  

If you’ve become too attached to your to-do list, you have a lot of other people’s ideas on your to-do lists, or you feel like the only way to get forward is to follow your to-do list religiously, then I’m going to ask you to throw that bad boy in the trash. And I’ll just give everybody a moment to have that panic wash over them. 

What Should Replace My To-Do List?

Ruthie: My to-do list has kind of fallen to pieces since quarantine started, and I felt bad for not having one. I used to check my to-do list every day. 

Nettie: This idea that the only path to getting to where you want to go is to follow your to-do list is definitely something I would argue against. Where you would start, if you do follow my directions and throw it out, is to envision what you’re creating. 

When I describe this, a lot of folks say, “Oh, isn’t that just a vision board?” Yeah, you could represent what I’m talking about as a vision board. For me it’s almost more of an experience. You need to feel and see where you’re going, and that’s not tied to any one specific route that you take to get there.

Some people get this immediately, but others get completely lost and need a little more clarification on what I’m talking about. Full disclosure: in my past life I came out of an engineering school. I’m an A-to-B kind of gal. I love to-do lists and numbers.

So even though what I’m describing now might seem a little touchy-feely to you, I assure you there’s a reason why it works. 

Start From Your Goal and Work From There

What I want you to do instead of starting with your to-do list, is to start your day by imagining where you’re going. Just imagine like 30 days out.

What does life feel like?

How are the kids behaving?

Are you getting dinner on the table every night and are they enjoying it?

You can imagine unicorns. It’s okay. They don’t have to actually be real at the moment.

You imagine that customers are coming to you with ease. They’re paying the prices you’re asking them to pay, and they’re excited to work with you. You have projects that fulfill you. As you’re imagining these things, you’re also imagining the emotions that go with it. 

Using Your Imagination to Super Charge Manifesting Your Goals

The science behind it is that your brain doesn’t distinguish imagination from reality. So once you imagine it, your brain basically says, “Okay, that’s cool. That was real.” Your brain acts as if these things are already real.

So if it’s already real that you’re going to have an enjoyable dinner time, your brain starts thinking about ways that that can be true. How could it be true that you’d have an enjoyable dinner time?

How could it be true that you attract clients that love working with you? How could it be true? Your brain starts to chew on these questions like they’re problems to solve, which your brain loves to do. It’s the thing it does while you’re sleeping! 

So you start your day with this, and then you ask the question, “Well, brain, if that vision were my current reality, how would I behave? What would today be like if I attracted customers with ease? If my kids enjoyed the food I put on the table? If I had a program that got great results for the people that I work with? What would I do today?”

And that’s what goes on your to-do list. In my ideal world, I actually talk about what I do. So maybe I should go on social media sometime and talk about the things that I do. 

It’s this creative sandbox that you can play in, where all things are possible, and no one gets harmed in the making of this movie. 

Ruthie: That’s wonderful! Nobody gets harmed in the making of my ideal lifestyle movie. 

Is There Something Wrong With Done-For-You Systems?

Ruthie: Ever since I became an entrepreneur, I’ve been plagued by these Facebook and Instagram ads for done-for-you processes. To date, I have successfully ignored all of them, but they sound so good

I ignore them because I’m like, “No! You’re not putting me in a funnel!” But what do you think about those? If we’re supposed to get rid of the checklist and operate from a place in our minds where we’ve already achieved what we want, is there something intrinsically wrong with these done-for-you systems? Or are there cases where you think it would be okay? I’m assuming you’ve seen them.  

Nettie: Yeah! There’s a really cool one that I’ve seen, where 2 women fold it together like on your startup Trello boards. Have you seen this one? It looks awesome. 

Ruthie: I haven’t seen it, but I use Trello all the time! 

Nettie: See? This might be a funnel you want to check out.

Focus on How the DFY System Can Help You Move Forward

Now, the question is, how does it help me create that vision? If you could have a portion of your business that you don’t love doing, done for you, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. I’m all for outsourcing and systematizing the parts, especially those you do more than once. You want to put systems in place for that. 

Be mindful though! I am careful about the free things I invest my email address in. If you’re checking somebody out just to understand if they’re an expert in their field, and they have a free item, great! You can opt out of that list as soon as you need to, but at that level you’re going to get what you paid for. 

However,  there are some amazing entrepreneurs doing amazing things to solve problems for other people on the planet. So no, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Just make sure that you don’t sign up for it just because it sounds good, but that it actually helps move you towards your vision. 

Ruthie: Okay, I’ll take another look. My Facebook ads are weird. I’m working on a book, so I get Facebook ads targeted towards authors, but then I also get stuff for entrepreneurs.

And then of course, I do a ton of research on content and I’m in a lot of content Facebook groups, so I get a lot of those types of ads too. But it is what it is, and that’s not my fault. Look at you: spreading hope!

Nettie: Just a sprinkle here and there!