Original question from Quora:

What is the most powerful tip you’ve gained from reading a self-help book?

My Answer:

One of the most powerful tips I’ve ever gained was something I actually knew before reading the book. It’s the secret formula from Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich. I figured it out a year before and when I started reading the book, and it was called a secret, I searched out the answer.

Surprisingly, I was right, but I’m not going to reveal it here because that wouldn’t be fair to Hill or useful to you. The magic lies in the journey of finding it.

Now, I’ll give you another tip that I found in a book, but I’ve heard it elsewhere, so I’m not sure where it originated. My guess is people have been doing this for a long time and someone decided to write it down and take credit for it.

The tip comes from The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan…

It’s about your daily todo list. First, you should have one. Second, each day you should do this:

  1. Write down 3–5 things you want to accomplish today
  2. Do the thing that is highest leverage first
  3. Cross it off the list
  4. Repeat at #2 until complete or day ends

This focuses you on doing a few meaningful things instead of a bunch of trivial things. I would add two tricks to that process.

  1. Make sure the things on the list move you toward your long term goals/plans/dreams
  2. Throw away the list at the end of the day

The first thing is important to making sure what you work on is truly important. The second thing keeps you from worrying about yesterday’s priorities.

The important stuff will keep bubbling to the top if start fresh each day and the less important stuff will vanish over time.

Eventually, you will find yourself working exclusively on things that get you what you want out of life and largely ignoring the rest. It’s subtle and happens over time, but it does happen.

I’ve used this a lot for the last couple of years and it helps me get a lot done and stay focused on what is important each day.

I love this method so much that my friend and I designed the perfect pocket notebook for this very thing. We couldn’t find something that worked as well as we want, so we designed our own.

Even without our notebook, you can fold a piece of paper or use a 3x5 notecard to do the same thing, but I find carrying a pocket notebook with tear out pages to be far more useful to me.

So that’s maybe the most impactful tip I’ve ever got from a self-help book. I use it every day.

-Brian

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