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“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” – Henry David Thoreau
Chris Ducker has an exercise for people to try when they are looking to figure out what to delegate to any virtual assistant you may want to bring on board. This approach allows you find the ideal match for your needs. He calls this exercise your 3 Lists to Freedom. I’ve used it myself when bringing on help too. It’s proven to be incredibly useful as I’ve managed to eliminate several tasks that I either hate doing, can’t do myself, or things that need to be done but don’t need to be done by me.
(I highly recommend you do this exercise even if you’re not ready to bring on any outside help because that you’ll be better prepared when you do decide to take that leap.)
I’ve riffed on Chris’s idea a bit with a list that I think can help you do more of what you love. I call it a Triple L List (Loathe, Like, Love) and here’s how it works:
- Take a sheet of paper and draw two lines down the middle, creating three columns. I suggest you do this in portrait style rather than landscape because the lists in each column can get rather long.
- The first column serves the same purpose as the first column in Chris’s 3 Lists to Freedom: It should contain the things you don’t like (or loathe) doing. Write down every task you can think of that fits in that category. These are things that actually NEED to be done – they can’t be things that don’t need doing. (I’ll explain why in a bit.)
- The third column is the one you’ll work on next. Here I want you to write down the things you love doing. They can be anything – work stuff, home stuff, hobbies, whatever – but they MUST be things you love doing.
- Now go back to the second column and write down the things that need to be done that you like doing…BUT don’t need to be done by you. That doesn’t mean you can’t do them (unlike Chris’s second column) but it means that you like doing them but they aren’t things you love doing and aren’t things you don’t like doing.
The last part of the Triple L List is the toughest to do because it means letting go of something. These tasks have attributes with the “oughts” in The TimeCrafting Method; they are things that you could do, but don’t need to be done by you. Dealing with them often involves training someone else to do the task. You’ll resist removing these items from your programme (a saying I’m borrowing from Arnold Bennett, author of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day). These tasks aren’t as easy to delegate or delete as the items in the first column.
But if you don’t remove them – at least some of them – then you’re robbing the attention and energy that you can give to the tasks you love.
Historically, I have had a tough time letting go of the tasks in the second column. For example, I’ve never had a problem editing podcasts. I’ve rather enjoyed doing it. But with all of the things on my plate, I was struggling to keep up and not burn out in the process. So I did the above exercise and found that I didn’t love doing the production work on the podcast. That task fell into the second column. So I began to figure out a way to stop doing it myself…and around that time John Poelstra and I started talking. John’s been producing the podcast pretty much since and now I can’t imagine ever producing my show again. And even if I needed to for a while, it would be one of the first things I’d give up as soon as possible.
You owe it to yourself to create your own Triple L List. It isn’t about getting help with the things in the first two columns if you can’t make that happen right now. It’s more about focusing your intentions and attention on those things in column three.
Make this list and make the things in the third column your focus. Why not even incorporate them into your themes for each day? Knowing what you love to do and having them segmented from the things you don’t love to do is a tremendous way to, in the words of Thoreau, “know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”