Working on the Right Things

by bsrubin on May 20, 2011

I am really pumped that I’ve been working with Johnny B. Truant as a coach.  He is fucking awesome – and is helping me become fucking awesome.  The goal for working with Johnny is to help me coordinate all of my activities.

Prioritization Challenges

I used to be constantly stressed about how much stuff I needed to do.  Lists and reminders tumbled around in my mind, ceaselessly bothering me.  I was always worried that I was missing something important, always stressed trying to remember everything.  Since learning about Getting Things Done I’ve realized that there is a way to get all of this out of my head.  It has always been hard for me to keep that system in place though.

Even though everything was out of my head and in appropriate lists – I still struggled with this:  What do I do now?  Is what I am doing now important?  Should I be working on something more important right now?  Prioritization was a major problem.  It’s such an energy suck worrying about whether what I am doing now is the right thing to do.

A New System

Enter Johnny.  The first thing we worked on together was putting together a solid plan to prioritize everything I had going on.  This system is one that Johnny has played with for a while – it comes from many sources including Tony Robbins.  The system works like this (highly abbreviated version):

Life Vision -> Life Categories -> Weekly Outcomes -> Daily Outcome -> Tasks

Life Vision: Without a vision for what your life should look like, what are you aiming at?  I conducted a detailed exercise where I laid out exactly what my ideal typical day would look like.  My life circumstances, what I would do, who I would be surrounded by, etc.  It’s the direction to point at.

Life Categories: Take that ideal day and ideal experience – and break it down into a few key life categories.  Write a vision statement for those categories.  I feel comfortable sharing mine as of today:

  • Physical
    • Vision:  I am highly energetic a great deal of the time, and my mind is as sharp as any.  I am healthy and powerful – I can tackle any physical pursuit and achieve at a high level.  I have a powerful physique and energetic presence that reflects this vitality.
  • Work
    • Vision:  I am leading an organization with an amazing culture that fits my personality and vision like a glove.  We are highly successful in changing millions of lives.
  • Emotional/Spiritual
    • Vision:  I am truly at peace with myself and I treasure the amazing life I live and universe I live in.  I know how to truly relax – time I enjoy that renews me and readies me for passionate work.  I am truly passionate about my life pursuits.  I am relaxed and confident when dealing with what life brings.
  • Family
    • Vision: I have a healthy and growing family that I spend enjoyable time with.  We rely on each other and support each other throughout all phases of our lives.
  • Friends
    • Vision:  I am surrounded by friends who inspire me with their passion, their achievements, and their personality.  We have great adventures together as well as enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
  • Relationships
    • Vision:  I have found my true compliment in life – someone as passionate, kind, and brilliant as I hope to be.  And far beyond me in physical beauty :)

Weekly Outcomes: Now every week – dump out what you have to do that week and what you might like to do.  Review the categories and visions – and come up with key outcomes for that week.  Not every category needs outcomes that week – but by reviewing each category/vision each week you make sure in the long-term you don’t leave anything behind.  A task might be ‘Do a crossfit workout’ which ties to the outcome ‘Make progress towards getting stronger’ which ties to the vision for the Physical category.  A couple outcomes become prioritized for the week – with a list of tasks under that.

Daily Plan: Each day – wake up and pull together a daily list of outcomes and tasks from the weekly list.  Here is an example of a Daily List:

  • Outcome: Get Ripped
    • Crossfit Today
    • Continue to follow my diet
  • Outcome: Learn to be aware of and sensitive to others emotions
    • Continue to practice watch technique, including ‘checking in’
  • Outcome: Kick off major integrations
    • Review Integration plan with Jay
    • Chat with a number of potential integrators.
  • Outcome: Make progress toward Zeo having amazing new products
    • Meet with Kuji and Steve
    • Meet with Steve and Meher
    • Review product documents


The whole system works.  At many given moments during the day – it’s natural to ask:

‘Is what I am doing now important, should I be doing this or something else’

Or ‘What should I do next’

With the whole system in place – it’s easy to choose tasks and know exactly what they tie back to.  Purpose flows.  Instead of talking to yourself with a comment like this:

‘It’s such a pain to be digging up this compost heap in the backyard, I’d rather be reading a book.  Why am I doing this? ‘

A comment like this emerges instead:

‘Yup – this is a pain – but I’m digging this compost heap because I want to forge deeper ties with my father.  That ties to my life vision for having a healthy, supportive family.  I’m doing the right thing.’

I am still practicing and honing this system – but it’s really working for me so far.  The next tweak is to add long goals in-between my visions and my weekly lists.

  • Armistead Legge

    This seems like an awesome, if not slightly complicated goal. As a kid, I have a lot more time than most, but I still have to ruthlessly prioritize all my tasks in order to get things done.

    My strategy is as follows:

    Make a to-do list in the morning with everything that I need to do that day.  Not stuff that can wait.

    I do those thing first, but I use a technique I call “time blocking”
    It works by setting a specific amount of time to do a task, and then just working on that.  It's similar to the Pomodoro method, but more flexible.  I pusposely put a few extra things on my to-do list so i just move on to the next thing when I finish with the last.

    I also really like the Tim Ferriss method of reminding yourself throughout the day with questions like:

    “Is what I'm doing conducive to my goals?”


    “If the day ended now, would I be satisfied with what I've accomplished?”

    This usually works pretty well, and if I start to get really frustrated, I just run sprints or read something and come back later.


  • bsrubin

    Good reminder on time blocking.  I've had really good results with Pomodoro in the past – and with this new system prioritizing for me I believe some form of time blocking will be an excellent addition.  Adding it back to the list of stuff I'd like to bring to the fore!

  • Armistead Legge

    Glad to help Ben!
    I have tried a lot of these time management strategies and prioritization methods, but they all end up causing me more wasted time than benefit.  I'm not saying Johnny's system is bad (I think that guy definitely knows what he's talking about) but for me, I like a slightly simpler method.  I may try his method sometime too, but time blocking seems to work pretty well.

    Let me know if you get any other cool ideas for time management:)


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