Madison Title Agency | Madison 1031 | LeaseProbe/Real Diligence | Madison SPECS

Monday Mornings with Madison


Work on projects, not on a “to-do” list     The first thing most people do when they decide to get organized is take a big yellow note pad and a new pen, and they start to write a list of all the things they have to do. Then they prioritize the tasks in order of importance by putting 1, 2, 3, next to each item. They look at the list and think: Now I am organized. I know exactly what I have to do, and I know which items are more important than the others.” Then they fold the paper nicely and put it in their pocket or in their file cabinet, and it stays there until…they decide to get organized and they write the whole list again (because they don’t remember where the first list is) and they put this new list away until….

Are you smiling? It would be something to smile about except for the fact that you are doing it, and because of this, you’re not accomplishing what you want in life. The reason “to do” lists do not work (except for those few individuals who write a list and then act on it) is because we human beings don’t do what we have to do. We do what we want to do.

Most of us know exactly what we have to do, and we even know the order of importance without writing it down, and we still don’t do what we have to do. Think of all the times you had a list of important things to do but you kept looking at the list and ignoring it… why? Because we don’t do what we should do or have to do. We do what we want to do. The only exception to this is when something is so urgent that we know we’ll suffer badly if we don’t do what needs to be done.  Then we’ll act.

Cheesecake or celery?      It’s like when you open your refrigerator and you see some nice cheesecake. Then you look down and you see a bunch of fresh celery sticks. You know you should have the celery but you want the cheesecake. You tell yourself, “I should have the celery,” but even as you’re saying this, you’re taking out the cheesecake. And when you finish the third slice, you say, “I shouldn’t have eaten it.” But you did. Why? Because we don’t do what we should, we do what we want. This is why most diets fail. People gain weight because they want to eat. They go on diets because they know they should lose weight. And that just isn’t motivating enough.

How to work around this problem? The best solution is to work on projects and not on to-do lists.  For example, if your goal is finding new clients, you create a project called Finding New Clients. Then ask yourself, “What is my desired outcome for this project?” How would you know if the project was successful? Let’s say you decide that success would mean appointments with 10 new contacts. That would be your desired outcome. Then ask yourself the most important question: “Why is this important to me?” Find as many answers  as you can to the question of why is it critical you achieve your outcome, and what will happen if you don’t.

Once you have finished answering these two questions — what’s my desired outcome, and why this is important to me — you can then write action steps. What specific actions will I take this week to achieve to my desired outcome?

The reason this strategy works is because you’re telling yourself very clearly what you want and why you want it. You will find yourself doing the things you have to do in order to get to your outcome. And you won’t feel stressed by having another to-do list.
By the way, you can have as many projects as you want going at the same time, as long as each project has answers to its “desired outcome” and “why it’s important” questions.

Here’s one critical pointer for success: make sure you answer the question of why your goal is important with both positive and negative outcomes. You need to know how good it will be to succeed and how uncomfortable it will be to not succeed because we get motivated both to gain pleasure and to avoid pain.

Take 30 minutes out of your busy schedule to write down the projects that you are currently involved in. Make sure that for each, you have a desired outcome and some very strong reasons to accomplish it. If you find yourself thinking that a particular outcome just isn’t that important, or you can’t find strong enough positive or negative reasons for the project, then drop it and move on to another project.

The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get. Jim Rohn

To contact Madison about this e-newsletter, email

The following material has been created and published by Madison Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC and its affiliated companies and Joint Ventures. All rights reserved. No part of this essay may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. For permission or information, send requests to