Chapter 4The Book of 50 (and how it changed my life)

There are two types of people in this world: those who make lists and those who don't. I fall firmly into the former. I get it from my mother. She was so committed to list-making: if ‘feed the kids lunch’ was not on the list, we didn't get fed. Lists are brilliant for chunking down complex or unpleasant tasks into bite-sized activities that can be diarised and done with minimal indecision.

People criticise list-making as they say it creates stress and results in an endless parade of incomplete activities. But lists help me get things out of my head, prioritise goals and immerse myself in a task so completely that the outside world falls away. They help me enter what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously called ‘the flow’.

While I traipsed around South America, I used the Book of 50 to keep my team on track. Other than that little oversight of failing to add ‘Get more sales’ on the list, the system worked well. It served me so well while I was gone, I kept it going when I got back.

It's been in operation for more than 20 years now, and has become my ‘go-to’ system for productivity and goal-setting. My list has a lot more than 50 items on it (a lot more!) but the ‘Book of 50’ is what everyone calls it now.

How did the Book of 50 get started?

The Book of 50 began as a series of post-it notes. I'd write a task on a post-it note, stick it to the bookshelf above my computer and when the task was completed, I'd take the note down. ...

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