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Cross Off Your To-Do List

This post originally appeared in our Startup Growth Newsletter.

I have always been a list person. Whether at home or at work, I like creating a list of things to do, and then I get tremendous satisfaction when I check things off of the list.

The problem with that approach is that you can become addicted to crossing things off. This is fine when you’re solely an individual contributor and your job is task orientated. As an entrepreneur at an early stage company, however, you wear multiple hats — specifically as an individual contributor and a strategist. When you live by the list, you can default to the part of your job that is task based. As a result, you neglect the strategy and big-picture thinking because those are hard, meaty problems that take a long time to solve. You will not be crossing them off your list any time soon. That is not rewarding.

That is why parenting has been such great entrepreneurial training. For many of us, being a parent is the most important job we will ever have. Yet, we can never truly commit 100% of our focus simply to the act of parenting because there are other problems like, say, earning a living, buying groceries, putting away laundry, etc. The list of distractions goes on and on. And as soon as you get into a groove, life throws a curveball at you, forcing you to adapt.

As a parent you wake up in the morning knowing you need to accomplish 10 things during the day but that you will only accomplish four. You need to look at all of those important tasks, evaluate which ones have the most long-term benefit, prioritize those and then be OK with not being able to do everything. This is not easy, especially for a list builder like myself.

Fortunately, as a parent, you have no other choice. You need to do it.

Developing that skillset: prioritizing the most important things, focusing on them, and setting aside the rest will serve you well as an entrepreneur.

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