A Simple To-Do List Hack For A Braver Life

Why choose a braver life? Because in all of the extensive research and work we’ve done on productivity, we’ve learned that giant “pie in the sky” life goals are the true equalizer among people. No matter how high up the corporate ladder or early into a career you are, everybody has a huge (and often secret) dream.

You’re not moving towards it yet because you’re holding yourself back, and you need a good dose of bravery to help you get there. But not the kind of risky head-dive you may be thinking.

All you need is a simple to-do list hack to help jumpstart the process.


Read Your To-Do List Out Loud

When you read your to-do list out loud, does it sound exciting? Does it stir you to get more done in the course of the day?

Task lists are a very personal and private thing, I get that. I write things in my own ‘language’ and if somebody else took a look at my list, they wouldn’t really understand what’s going on.

I think most people’s lists are like that – highly personalized records of what we’re thinking, feeling and ultimately doing. Some of my tasks read as urgent, others read as passing, meandering thoughts. For a long time, many of them read like boring bullets because that’s exactly how they felt. Like boring items I just had to get through.

But if your to-do list informs you of what’s up ahead, shouldn’t it also get you motivated? The next time you add a task, think about how you’re going to feel when you read it tomorrow or next week.

I’m always trying to read new books and even though I love the activity when I’m in the flow, it can be hard to pick up a book after a long day, no matter how much I want to read it. I’m one of those people that races through pages until I get to the good parts, so sometimes starting a book is far more difficult than finishing it.

Books are always a part of my to-do list. Here’s what mine said three weeks ago when I set a reminder to read Pitch Perfect by Bill McGowan:

“Read Pitch Perfect”

But that was boring and kept getting rescheduled. So I changed it. Here’s what it said last week:

“Use Pitch Perfect to supercharge next week’s partner presentation”

Now that was something I could get excited about. Not every task needs to cheer you on, but if there’s something that’s dragging you down, try reframing it. It’s a good trick that works for me every time.

But that’s only half the hack. If you really want to be braver in daily life, then you have to take the little things to a whole new level.


Turn Tasks Into Dares

You have to look for opportunities in your daily task list to-do things just a little differently. That’s when the magic happens.

We’ve talked before about how task lists are a glimpse into your future and how to be bold and break the Seal Of Hesitation that makes it so hard to just get started. Both of these touch on an idea that the most productive go-getters implement in their daily work lives.

The next time you have a simple task, see if you can turn it into something bigger by daring yourself to just take an extra step:

Call an old friend = Invite them to meet you at your favorite childhood hangout spot

Get a birthday card = Make a clever birthday video and post it publicly on Youtube

Invite a colleague out to coffee = Invite a colleague and bring the boss along too

Read a new business book = Live tweet your thoughts on the book as you read it

Look for a new apartment = Simultaneously look at houses for sale and get yourself pumped to buy one in X years

Start your blog = Work with a local business to co-promote and have a blog launch party

Give a PowerPoint presentation = Turn it into an interactive group workshop

Go for a jog = Go for a chase instead (side note: The Swimmer is an odd/ incredible movie that takes the idea of jogging/ swimming, and ‘doing things differently’, to a whole new level)

Every task, no matter how minute, can turn into something big if you just dare to-do it a little differently… and that takes bravery. We often get our biggest sparks of inspiration/ motivation/ excitement when we inadvertently take a small risk that later pays off big.

Why not systemize that risk and make it part of each and every day? You can call it being quirky, doing things your own way, having a personal productivity style – whatever it is, you’ll know you’re doing it right when you feel some apprehension.

That apprehensive feeling signals you’re about to grow personally, no matter how small the measure. It keeps you flexible and accepting of risk.

Seth Godin talks about putting yourself out there in many of his books, including The Icarus Deception (one of my favorites):

“Dance with fear. Dance with done. Dance with the resistance. Dance with each other. Dance with art.”

I do this all the time. Just this week I had a routine business call set up, but instead I went out of my way to make it an in person meeting so I could test out the new tactics I had learned in Pitch Perfect.

It took time, obviously. I had to think about how I wanted to present myself and what I’d say beforehand so I could work in some of my new ideas (ideally I’d internalize a lot of the book’s concepts and be able to use them in everyday life, but I was just starting here.)

And it made a difference. I believe we had a much more in depth and meaningful conversation than originally planned because I was more compelling and able to steer the discussion. Small difference, but a difference nonetheless.

When we look at all the most productive people in the world, we notice time and again that they aren’t just bold with the big things. They take risks with the small things too. That’s good advice that anybody can use.

It’s how you put your mark on every day, and a perfect measure that goes far being crossing things off your list.

You can ask yourself “did I do it?” or instead ask “did I do it bravely?”


It doesn’t take much

I’m not asking you to add big new “Someday” dreams to your to-do list, nor am I asking you to change most of what you do on a daily basis.

But if you take just one task on your to-do list each day and do it a little differently, with a little more daring and bravery, you’ll reap the rewards.

Like so many other productivity concepts we’ve discussed on this blog – it’s a mind shift more than anything else. Don’t reward yourself when your list is done. Reward yourself when you do that one thing just a little more awesomely.

There are a million ways to interpret this and we invite you to take it in whatever direction feels right. Don’t stick by our few examples. Make up your own!

Then tweet us @AnyDo or post on our Facebook page with your accomplishments and #ABraverLife so we can celebrate with you.

We’re all waiting to see what you’ll do today.