Front loading


Top athletes don’t train at the same level of intensity throughout the day. They front load their workouts, doing the heaviest parts earlier in the day, when they have the most energy.

They also front load their week, doing the most strenuous workouts Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, for example, and leaving the rest of the week for less intense parts of their training.  

This allows them to build muscle, speed, and endurance while getting sufficient rest so they can go at it again. 

We can work the same thing in our work.

The idea is simple. You start your day or week (or project) doing the most important tasks. This allows you to get started when you have more energy, so that if the rest of the day or the week you don’t work with the same intensity, or you work on tasks that are less important, you still make progress.

This doesn’t mean you need to start with the most disagreeable or difficult tasks, a la, Eat That Frog. Just start with your MITs, your “most important tasks”.

You don’t need to do them as soon as you roll out of bed. But when you’re ready to start your workday or a new week, you’re starting a new project or diving into a work-in-progress, do the most important tasks or steps first. 

When you structure your time this way, you make progress even if you don’t do that much with the rest of the day or the week. 

If you’re working on a new presentation, do the outline and first draft early in the day or week. Do the second draft, editing, and creating visuals later.

Many people do things just the opposite. They start their day doing easy tasks, to tick them off their list and make room to work on the important things. The problem with working this way is that we often run out of time and/or energy before getting to the important things.  

Front load your time by prioritizing the most important things on your list and doing them first.

Make that your SOP and, who knows, you might find that a four-day work week is your new reality. 


“There are always things to do. Most of them are pointless.”


I didn’t catch the name of the book but someone I follow said she read this (actually, heard it on an audiobook), and it stopped her in her tracks. Pointless? Most things?

If that’s true, the world has some ‘splainin to do. 

Actually, I agree with the statement. I wouldn’t use the word ‘pointless’, but most of what we do is trivial, at least compared to the most important things we do. 

Or could do.

Signing up a new client, settling a big case, launching a newsletter or website—these are important. They put food on the table, pay our rent, and help us move forward towards achieving our goals. 

We can’t say that about most of the things we do.   

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do them. Some things just have to be done and we’re the ones who have to do them. So they’re not pointless. Just not our ‘most important tasks’. 

And we should, we must, prioritize our most important tasks, if we are to get where we want to go. 

Okay. You probably know your most important tasks. They’re already a priority for you. It’s everything else that’s not so clear. 

Writing that demand letter is a priority. Is editing it again (and again) a priority or is ‘good enough’ good enough? 

Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time in that gray area. And a lot of time doing things that aren’t worth doing. 

If we can identify these less valuable (pointless?) tasks, and eliminate them, do them less often, or do them more quickly, we could multiply our effectiveness. 

(Yes, this is the 80/20 Principle).

Here’s a thought about how to do that:

Assume that everything on your list is ‘pointless’. Unnecessary. Or not worth the time or energy it takes to do. And make every task ‘prove’ to you otherwise. 

Challenge everything and ruthlessly cut anything that doesn’t pass the test.

And, when you’re ready to add a new task (or step) to your list, make “no” or “not now” your default. 


Denny Crane


My wife and I are watching Boston Legal. Yeah, first time. I don’t have anything I want to tell you about any of the characters or storyline, or how that firm does rainmaking, but at some point, I know I will. . 

So I’ve started a page in my notes app to record ideas about that. 

Other than a title, that page is currently blank. But it serves an important purpose because every time I see that note, it will remind me (and my subconscious mind) to find something to write about. 

That note is a placeholder for a future blog post. 

Yes, I could simply put the idea in a list of blog post ideas, just as I do for future projects or someday/maybe tasks. But there’s something about opening a new folder that makes an idea a bit more likely to happen. 

It also gives you a place to collect notes and information for that project or idea, which helps you get started on it.  

Tiago Forte says, “When you have a place for something, you find more of it.”

Set up a placeholder for the book you want to write, the investment you want to research, or the project you want to start. Set up a note for the blog post you’re thinking about. 

You’ll probably feel compelled to add notes, ideas, web clippings, photos, quotes, bullet points, research, and other things related to that project or post. 

Which means you’ll be a stop closer to getting started.


I should have done this years ago


For a long time, I’ve talked about the value of choosing tomorrow’s tasks today. Instead of writing your task list each morning, write it the night before. 

And for years, that’s what I’ve done. 

Previously, I had to wake up my brain each morning and plan my day, and it was often quite a while before I started working. Now, I know what’s on tap for the day and I can get to work immediately. 

One of my daily tasks is writing a blog and newsletter. Choosing the subject the day before has made a big difference for me, especially since I often find it takes longer to choose the topic than to write the post. Choosing the topic the day before has the added benefit of allowing my subconscious mind to work on the topic overnight.

This has worked well for me. But here’s the thing. . .

Sometimes, I get towards the end of the day and see I still need to choose tomorrow’s blog topic. I do it, but if I’m tired or finishing up something else or I’m hungry and ready to call it a day, I may not have the presence of mind to do it. 

So recently, I changed my workflow. A small change, but it has made a big difference. 

Now, as soon as I finish and publish “today’s” post, I choose the following day’s topic. I don’t do this in the afternoon or evening, as before, I do it immediately. 

It’s not a separate task, it’s part of the “write blog post” task. So effectively, I have one less task to do that day. One less thing to think about, or do, especially when I’d rather do something else.

If you write a blog or newsletter or post content on social, try it. Choose your next subject as part of finishing the one you work on today. . 

Actually, you can do this with any type of task, not just writing. 

Before you finish working on a case or project, choose the next one to work on. Make it part of your process, so you can roll from one into the next one. You may find, as I have, that it makes for a more productive day.


How many times have you postponed that task? 


We all do it. We schedule something for a given day but run out of time (or energy) and push it to another day. That’s normal. If you rarely do that, you might not be getting as much done as you could. If you frequently do it, however, you might be trying to do more than you can handle. 

There is a sweet spot where you’re not doing too much or too little. But that’s a discussion for another day. 

Right now, a simple suggestion for you regarding what to do about tasks you postpone too often. 

Start by asking yourself why you keep postponing the task or project. Is it because it’s not that important to you, or not as important as other things you need to do? Is this task too difficult (right now)? Or tasks you find boring or otherwise unpleasant?

Because there are different options for each reason.

If you don’t see the value in doing the task, at least not in the short term, you might postpone it again (without feeling guilty about it), put it on a “someday” list, or delete it entirely. 

If the task is overwhelming, unpleasant, or too difficult, you might delegate all or part of it to someone who has more experience with that type of task or more time to do it. Or make the task easier to do, or at least easier to start, by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. 

What if the task is too easy and you’re bored at the thought of doing it? You could make it more challenging or interesting by changing the way you do it. 

For example, instead of researching a project by piling through a bunch of books or articles, you might sign up for a course that shows you what to do step-by-step Or partner up with someone who does the parts you don’t like while you do others.

You could change the subject of a boring or unfulfilling task, e.g., writing a paper, to a different or more interesting subject.  

You could also expand the scope of a boring task and make it more challenging and/or more valuable. If you continually postpone outlining part of a presentation, for example, you might expand that into outlining the entire presentation.

Another idea is to change the software or tool you use, the newness of which should be more interesting and/or more challenging.

Once you know why you continually postpone a task, you can change that task, reframe how you think about it or how you go about doing it. It could be exactly what you need to do things you don’t want to do.


The power of constraints


If you’re like most people, when you make a list of tasks for the day, you look at your calendar, your list of tasks with an approaching deadline, incomplete tasks from the day before, and things you’d like to finish (or start) soon, and there’s your list. 

There are two potential problems with this approach. 

First, your list might be too big to do in a day. Too many tasks, or tasks that take more time or energy than you have available, are overwhelming. And when you don’t do most or all of the tasks on your list, disappointing. 

Better to have a list of “too few” than “too many”. A short list is a list that gets done. 

Second, your list might not prioritize your most important tasks—the ones that provide the most value. 

A better way to make your list for the day (or every day) is to start by choosing a number—the number of tasks for the day. 

Let’s say you decide that a good day for you means doing 5 tasks (not counting small, recurring, or routine tasks). 5 tasks that move the needle. 

Starting with a small number, a constraint, forces you to choose your most important tasks. You’ll have a more productive day doing 5 important tasks instead of (trying to do) 10 or 12 tasks. 

I usually start my list with 2 or 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks), and a few other things I’d like to do if I have the time. But if I “only” do my most important tasks, I consider it a good day. And it usually is. 


No dessert until you finish your veggies


The law was simple. If I wanted ice cream, my parents made me finish my peas and carrots. So I held my nose and ate my peas and carrots. 

You too?

Rewards worked when we were kids, and they work today. When you have something unpleasant or difficult to do, promising yourself a pleasurable reward for doing the task might be all you need to motivate yourself to get it done. 

Finish that research you’ve been putting off and you get to watch YouTube shorts for 20 minutes. 

It works, but if you do it too much, rewarding yourself for doing something productive can actually be counterproductive. 

The reason? The pleasure you get from the pleasurable activity (the reward), is caused by a spike in dopamine, but after that spike, your dopamine dips below normal levels, which can make you feel unmotivated to do the next difficult task. 

The higher the dopamine spike, i.e., the more pleasure you get from the reward, the more time it will take to come back to a normal level. You either have to wait for that to happen or give yourself an even bigger reward (more dopamine) to motivate yourself to do it.

 In addition, using rewards to motivate yourself can condition your brain to do difficult tasks to get the reward instead of the inherent benefit of doing the task itself. 

No veggies, no ice cream.

Does this mean you shouldn’t reward yourself for doing difficult or unpleasant things? No. Go ahead and give yourself a reward if you want to. Just don’t take the reward immediately. 

Put a little distance between the productive act and the reward, to give your brain time to associate the successful completion of that task with the inherent benefits of doing it, instead of associating it solely with the reward.


Some people don’t do a weekly review


I read an article by a guy who has eliminated weekly reviews from his workflow. He says they never worked for him:

  1. It took too much of his time and mental bandwidth to do them,
  2. It was tedious in the extreme and he had to force himself to do it, and
  3. It’s more productive to be “executing” than reviewing,

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have that weekly chore (and could still get your work done)? 

But how? How do you ensure you’re keeping the right balls in the air and doing everything you need to do? 

One way he does that is to review everything that needs reviewing at the time he captures it. A few seconds while it’s fresh in his mind. 

Basically, that means looking at it and thinking about it long enough to decide if (and where) to file it or tag it to work on in the ordinary course of his work.

I guess you could describe this as a 30-second review, done one small item at a time. 

Anyway, by doing it immediately instead of saving everything to process later, he spares himself from looking at everything once a week at a time when he may have forgotten why he captured it. 

Do it (review it) immediately and be done with it. 

This means he no longer has to go back through the previous week’s tasks, notes, and documents, and recall what they are and recall what he thought about each one some days ago. Sorta a “touch once” rule.

But, if the item or task requires more than a few seconds to think about, fix or work on, he schedules time to do that. Time to “do” it, not review it (because he’s already done that). 

What do you think? 

What I think is that as tempting as it would be to eliminate the weekly review, I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. As I wrote recently, I can do a brief weekly review in 15 or 20 minutes and I find this is time well spent.

What I will do as a result of hearing this idea, however, is to be more mindful of the notes and tasks that go into my Inbox at the time I collect them. That means deciding what I think and intend to do with it, and making a few notes about that, at the time I capture it instead of deferring this until the end of the week. 

Processing things on the spot that way might let me get my weekly review down to 5 or 10 minutes. 


A new (but old) productivity system


The debate rages on. What is the best productivity system, set up, and workflow? What’s the best way to organize your tasks, plan your projects, or structure your week?

And what’s the best app for putting it all together?

If you’re like me, you’ve tried a lot of systems (and apps), and continue to do so because you might find something you like better, or something you can adapt to your current setup. 

It’s also fun to hear what others do. This morning, I read a discussion about this very subject. 

One guy said he has a friend who has used GTD for the last twenty years and he asked him a question about his setup. The friend told him he no longer uses GTD, or any system at all. He writes what he needs to do for the day on a slip of paper. 

That’s his system. 

No lists, contexts, priorities, or tags. And no apps. Just a simple list. 

Shocking, I know, but also refreshing. If you have a piece of paper and a pen, you don’t need anything else. 

Make a list. Do the things on the list. Make a new list the following day. 

You spend no time organizing and reorganizing or manicuring your lists.     

 It reminds of me of the way we used to do things. Before PCs and smart phones. We had a paper calendar and a legal pad, and that was all we needed.  

I wrote my list for the day on my calendar where I could see it alongside appointments and things I wanted to remember. The only prioritizing we did was to put things in the order we needed or wanted to do them. If something was really important or urgent, we’d circle or underline it or write a star next to it. 

And the next day, we’d make a new list. 

Long-term planning? That went on the legal pad, or in a file folder. Long-term dates? Those were put in a big (red) book. 

And it worked. 

And there’s something appealing about this system today. Clean and simple.

No, I’m not going to make this old system my new system. It’s a bit too simple for me now, especially since I know what else is available. And because I like my devices and apps.

But the next time I spend too much time tinkering with my system, and not enough time doing the work, I’m going to remember the way we used to do it, grab some paper and a pen and make a list.  


Warren Buffet doesn’t make lists


I like big lists and I cannot lie. I use them every day for everything. Bullet points give me order. Checkboxes give me peace. Lists save me time, keep me from forgetting things, and help me to be more productive. 

Can you relate? 

The other day, I was surprised to hear that Warren Buffet doesn’t make lists. I heard it from the man himself in a video. He says he doesn’t need lists because he knows what he needs to do and wants to do, and that’s what he does. 

And he has so much money, he can do whatever he damn pleases. Okay, I made that part up, but c’mon, we know that’s true. 

What about a calendar? That’s a list. You need to know about upcoming meetings and conference calls and appointments. Does he have someone who keeps that list for him?

What about the agenda when he delivers his annual report to shareholders? That’s a list, isn’t it? Does he read from a printed statement? That’s a list in narrative form, yes?

Anyway, this isn’t about the nitty gritty about what he does and doesn’t do. It’s about me romanticizing the idea of being so comfortable about your situation that you don’t need to make lists to keep you on track. 

I thought about what that would be like and wonder of wonders, I realized that I could actually make that sorta work.

I know the projects I want to work on today and this week. And I will work on them. Without needing to check my list. I know because they are important to me. 

I also know my daily and weekly routine tasks. Without a list and reminders, I might overlook some of them, but I’d get the most important ones done. 

I also know what I want to do after I finish my current projects and wrap up the week. How do I know? My subconscious mind reminds me. It knows what I need to do. And want to do. If it’s important, I won’t forget it. If I forget it, it wasn’t important. 

Maybe Mr. B. is onto something. 

Hold on. David Allen tells us to write down everything, to get it out of our heads and free up cognitive space for creating new ideas and working on them. 

Who’s right? The GTD guy or the weirdo who eats McDonalds every day? 

Tell you what, until I can hang with Mr. B., I’m sticking with Mr. A. 

Because I like big lists and I cannot lie.