How to Tackle To-Do’s Like a Racing Driver

Winning is everything in Formula 1. Of course, it is; it’s a race. But before drivers finish as champions in the first place (or P1), there’s a crucial task they’ve got to complete.

Get ahead of the guy in front of them.

A driver at the back of the pack in P20 can have his eyes dead set on finishing P1. But if he can’t even overtake the driver in P19, then nothing’s going to happen.

If he does get ahead of P19, he’ll need to overtake P18. Then P17, and so on.

Tackling What’s Right in Front of You

It’s good to have big goals. They direct and motivate us to keep going.

But small goals matter too.

They may even be more important since they’re actionable.

For our driver who’s P20 in the race, his big goal is to finish first. But the small goal that’s part of that is to get ahead of the other 19 drivers.

Small goals are essentially what productivity consultant David Allen calls “Next Actions.”

According to Allen, these are the very specific, physical actions you can take to make progress on a big goal. (Next Actions only appear for things you want to do that take more than one step to complete. If your goal takes less than a minute, you should do it already.)

Cleaning your room is an easy example of a big goal.

“Clean room” might be the obvious thing to write on your to-do list, but if you still haven’t done it, it clearly isn’t good enough. It’s a blurry task. What does cleaning your room really look like?

Should you wipe your desk? Rearrange the underwear drawer in your closet? Do you need to get cleaning materials from downstairs? What materials exactly?

While Allen admits that it all sounds really simple, writing Next Actions is vital to completing projects. If you don’t make it clear to yourself what you need to do next, you aren’t going to stop wondering about it. And wondering about it isn’t the same as doing it.

So instead of writing “Clean room” on your to-do list, your Next Action could be “Get tissues and spray from downstairs.” Or if you really want to get detailed about it, you could write before that “Stand up from my chair in five minutes.”

Getting to the Checkered Flag

Even if life isn’t a race, there are still some things we can learn from Formula 1. We can learn to cross off tasks on your list like a driver overtaking his opponents.

And with enough tasks in your rear view mirror, you’ll quickly realize the last thing you need to cross will be the finish line.

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Content writer. Graphic designer. Meal-finisher. Seinfeld enjoyer.

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Francis Alcantara

Content writer. Graphic designer. Meal-finisher. Seinfeld enjoyer.