Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Figuring Out How Many Tasks You Can Do Each Day So You Know Exactly How Mentally Strong You Are

Yesterday, I started to break down the email checklist I am building to illustrate how you build mental strength. I wanted to pick up where I left off in the last post and talk more about that today. Before I get into it, just a reminder, I'm of the view that before you can increase your mental strength, you have to know how strong you are. Now, when I say "know" how strong you are, I don't mean have a general idea, I want to know exactly. You should as well.

When you build physical strength, you know exactly how much you weight you use when you do an exercise. You look at the weights and see how much they weigh and then you use them. You don't grab a weight and guess how much it is. YOU LOOK.

It's the same with mental strength, but instead of weight, you use tasks instead. And for me to know exactly how mentally strong I am, I have to actually see the tasks in front of me in the form of a checklist. This tells me how much I can lift "mentally". How far I can get into my checklist tells me that.

Once, I know how far I can get, that's where I set the bar. I make it my priority to get that far from that point forward. To gain mental strength, I would then push myself to add a few more tasks each time I go to the office (our mental gym).

I've spent the last few days working on determining the exact amount of mental strength that I have when it comes to my email account. I can tell you that, because I know exactly how far I get into my checklist.

To keep it simple, here's a basic email checklist:

  • Turn on computer

  • Log into email account

  • Open email inbox folder

  • Process each email in the inbox until it is empty

  • ---------- THE BAR ------------------

  • Open email calendar folder

  • Process each email reminder

  • Open action folder

With this sample checklist, you can see that right after I get my inbox to empty, I've put "THE BAR". That's because that's how mentally strong I was today. I was able to get through all of my email and get my inbox to zero. I couldn't however move onto the next item on my checklist which was to open my calendar folder.

So what I do, is tomorrow, when I work through my checklist, is to make sure that I again get my email inbox to empty. That no matter what I do, I get at least that far. That's my first objective.

Secondly, the next most important thing I will do is at the very least go one more task down on my checklist. In this case, that would be to open my calendar folder and look at my reminders.

Now, even if I don't do anything else but OPEN that folder, I can see that once I do that, I actually lifted more tasks than the previous day. And I can move the bar down and set my bar there.

Depending on where you are and your mental state, you might only have the bar at turn on computer. Or, you might be at your Action folder. Or, even farther down your checklist. The point is that all of us reach a wall somewhere and that's where we get stuck. And where we get stuck is our mental strength.

Small increases in the number of tasks is how you get through that wall.

A basic checklist above will do the job, but if you have been following me, you will probably notice that I am going into greater detail with my checklist.

Like today, I spent a great deal of time analyzing the types of emails I get and exactly what I do with them when I receive them. I've discovered that up to this point, I get about 20 -25 different types of emails. To find that out, I analyzed the last 1500 emails I received. And for the most part, many were repeats. I receive them over and over again.

Here are some basic types I received:

  • Email from friends and family

  • Email from bloggers I like to read

  • Email from bloggers I like to read but can wait until I have time

  • Discount offers from companies I use

  • Email from coworkers

  • Alerts on financial accounts

  • Email from social networking accounts

  • Spam or other unsolicited email

  • Quickbooks alerts

  • Calendar reminders

  • Comments and pingbacks from blogs I manage

  • Payment confirmations

  • Renewal notices

  • Unsubscription notices

  • New member registrations

  • Paypal notices

  • Faxes

  • Notices that statements are ready

  • School notices

  • Bills

  • Appointment confirmations

  • Other reminders

  • Domain renewals

So in addition to finding where I need to set the bar, I am also looking at how to make the process quicker and more efficient. To do that, I am breaking down the steps I take for each type of email as well and also putting that in my checklist.

The plan is to then set up filters to handle the things I can see that I can automate. That's the beauty of email. I can batch things together and process the same thing at the same time - like calendar reminders.

I've been building the rough skeleton of a daily review checklist and putting it online for others to see it. If you are a member of the Black Belt Project, you can find a link to my checklist in my forum signature. If you are not a member yet, you can join here.


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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength


I too have been reviewing my emails. I maybe able to stop some of them that come to my email. Since the same go to both my work and home. It is funny how when you start looking at them you really don't need some. Like you I have place I frequent and us the coupons. To today I will set up folders for dining. And then clean the out once in a while. Thanks for the tips.


I get a ton of offers from companies I have bought products from. I see that I can reduce my email considerably either by unsubscribing or by filtering them to my read review folder. Thanks for the comments Tina:)

Michael-- I have started using more folders in my e-mail processing and it has helped.

The idea of "setting the bar" has been the big take away I've gotten from your work. However, I'm still a bit confused how to do this. For example, for my tasks that are different everyday I just have my big to do list--I do look at a visual representation of how many tasks I got done the previous day in Goal Enforcer when I turn it on in the morning....but those tasks then get deleted and since each days tasks are different it's not possible.

The only thing I have been able to track is how many minutes I spend "super focused" getting stuff done. I do this with YaTimer. My plan has always been to review and keep stats (mean, median, mode, standard deviation) on my weekly review--however I'm not doing a weekly review as of yet. So I end up just deleting my records--still it does help
Cold calling is the repeatable process I should do everyday in which I have pretty low mental strength. The only way I can think of setting the bar is # of dials, and time spent.

Am I on the right track?

Michael--this is brilliant and extremely helpful. Thank you sir!

P.S. do you usually prospect in hour long chunks? In that book you recommended by Bill Good he recommends 1 hour blocks of prospecting seperated by 10 minute breaks. Way way above my current mental strength.

He also recommends that you can get 5 of these blocks done in a work day if you are starting out---also far above my current mental strength...but I'm sure I can get there.

I'm sure working at home vs. being in a group also effects my mental strength. I find that mental strength for many tasks varies depending on environment.

I haven't prospected in a while. I've been spending time writing..lol.

I could do an hour or two when I had too. I would do an hour and take a break. If you call an hour, because of voicemail and the fact that not as many people answer the phone, you don't get a hold of everyone you call. So a lot of it is dialing, getting voice mail and to find the people you can reach.

He is right, when you are first starting out, you have to prospect all the time. It's good advice, definitely, but hard to do.

Remember to set the bar at what you can do and progressively increase. And don't forget to prospect in a niche where everybody knows everyone else if possible. Then when one becomes a client, get a reference letter from them.

Also, hang out with them at association meetings if your group has one. Get people out to dinner together and make friends with them. That goes a long way.