© 2008 Linda Feinholz.

This past week I spotted a trend among my clients. You might call it the ‘dash’… everyone is sprinting to prove they’re making changes in their business’s productivity as if that is a badge to earn all by itself.

And too often they are speeding down a track that is taking them to actions and solutions that will cost a lot of time and money and not even solve the issue at hand.

You may be caught in the same sense of urgency, starting an unnecessary race. So I thought I’d share the steps I use with my clients to get them focused at the right pace so that they get the full result they’re hoping for to grow their business.

Step 1 – Define The True Issue

One of my largest clients asked me to sit in during the first presentation by a tech team to address improving the Customer Services function at their company. Sure enough, the team ‘presented’ the issue by quoting back 35 interviewees’ concerns and then went straight into the proposed solution. Fortunately the COO paused the conversation and identified that he hadn’t heard the actual ‘need’ for which the proposed project was a solution.

Make sure you’ve defined exactly what is being ‘fixed’ and be sure the users of the solution are at the table defining what is needed.

Step 2 – Research the Options for Solutions

We all fall in love with our area of expertise. And the tech team members showed it clearly. They were proposing ‘web based’ technology and mega databases to gather all the interactions with clients… and they completely neglected the more familiar automated phone options and even email exchanges. Not to mention the non-tech solutions that could be created by realigning customer service personnel roles.

Take the time to flush out at least three options and run those ideas past the potential users to see if you’re staying on track.

Step 3 – Check that the Solution Matches Your Business Model

For this particular client, the end user will never be the person contacting Customer Service. Their distributors are the ones who will report issues and 20% of them are not computer users. That doesn’t mean they might not find technology solutions useful, but it won’t be sitting at their desk. They need solutions they can use when they are standing on site at a client, or get a phone call while driving between appointments.

All the technology in the world won’t solve your key challenge: make it easy for your customers to communicate with you the way they are ready to today. OR make it even easier!

Step 4 – Double Check That The Solution Works ‘Inside’ AND ‘Outside’

Not only does my client need to make it easy for their customers to be heard and responded to… They also need to capture the information so they can check internally to identify trends in their products and services and decide what may need to be redesigned. The tech team will need to design a system for gathering information easily, and passing it to those who need to know immediately, and summarizing it in reports for periodic trends analysis. At each stage, the information may look very different to each audience.

Sort out how you’ll store information over time so that you can be sure it serves improving your customer’s experience AND your own organization’s performance.

Step 5 – Design How You’ll Test And Adjust The Solution

Just like a rubber band springing back into place, changes in systems and people’s behavior can melt away when you assume it will all come together as needed. Nothing takes you off track more predictably than designing and instituting changes and then walking away from the project. Never assume the ‘design’ is the solution.

Before you invest time and money in permanently changing processes, and policies, and roles and responsibilities test the proposed system with all the users.

Commit to the project’s long-term success by assigning responsibility for testing your chosen solution and evaluating how it’s working… AND commit to adapting it as you learn what is working well and what needs to be tweaked.

Step 6 – Test And Adjust, Test And Adjust

My client is bringing together a task force of six disciplines to talk through all of the steps above. They’ll be guiding the tech team’s focus to be sure it meets all the users needs and stays on track with the Issue identified back in Step 1.

Now it’s your turn on the track.


OK – You’ve got a list. We ALL have a List. Now’s the time to take control of those To Do’s and turn them into Ta Da’s!Ask yourself.

What single thing will I absolutely get “DONE” today?”

Write it down.

Now write down 3 items you’ll take off today’s calendar so you can keep your focus. Take those items and delegate, dump, or time block them so they’re off your To Do list and you can celebrate what you got DONE today and the rest of the week. Ta Da!


© 2008 Linda Feinholz.

You’ve got dreams and you’ve got your attention on what it takes to achieve them. You’re ready to roll up your sleeves and eager to start producing massive results.

The problem is, you’re dragging. You put in tons of hours, your desk is piled with papers, and no matter how hard you work, you’re plagued by a To-Do list a mile long and growing. You’re constantly busy yet you get to the end of each week before you get to the end of your list.

Important things fall through the cracks. In fact you’re feeling frustrated, drained and overwhelmed. And you’re doubting what you’ve actually accomplished.

I started coaching this month with two new business leaders and that’s exactly what they were facing, every day. They were wondering how they’ll ever achieve their big goals when they can’t seem to dig themselves out from under their avalanche of tasks and ‘have to get done’s’.

So I gave them a To Do list Makeover. We turned that time and energy sucking list of “To Do’s” into “Ta Da’s!” they can smile about. And you can use it too!

So what’s a Ta Da! List?

Have you ever noticed that your To Do List is a never-ending list of everything you think you should be doing?

We’re all so adept at creating lists of things that need doing. But not all items are created equal—some are simple items to get done, others take major effort. As a result your To Do list is full of busy work all mixed in with the important stuff and even the urgent and critical things your success depends on.

A Ta-Da! list is results focused. It’s a list of High Payoff tasks, that when completed have immediate impact on your results and success. Completing items on your Ta-Da! List results that in energy focuses you and each next effort on accomplishments.

A Ta Da! List is a declaration of what you are committed to getting done. And that means getting it done in the most effective way possible.

Here is a 5 step plan to tame that To Do list:

Step #1: Declare Your Top 3 Priorities.

Your Ta-Da! List needs a clear focus. Every day, start a fresh list with your 3 most important projects or priorities. Don’t let your High Payoff Activities get buried – keep everything else off this list. Clearly focus on the 3 priorities that must get done, no matter what else happens. Let this focus your actions.

Step #2: Dump The Lowest Priority Items.

If everything is equally important then nothing really is. Take a fresh, honest look at your To Do list. Now filter your list for the things that you dream of getting done ‘someday’ and write them down on a separate piece of paper – out of your sight, permanently. Ask yourself “What items on my list fall in the ‘great idea’ category but have very little payoff if I do them? What items have absolutely no consequence if I DON’T do them?” If you’re finding “shoulds” that you keep stalling on because they aren’t aligned with your top priorities, cross them off and be done with them.

Step #3: Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.

Identify anything and everything that must get done, yet could be done by someone else. That means handing it to someone and overseeing their accomplishing it so you stop being the ‘only one’ who could get it done. I teach my clients to use the “If I Ran off to Fiji Test”. If you decided to catch a plane tomorrow, and it still needed to get done, who ought to have it on their list? If you’re concerned it won’t get done to your standards, set-up a formal hand off with a ‘check in’ dates and times to review progress and provide input. But commit to letting someone else handle it all the way to completion.

Step #4: Pencil Out The Week.

Take another look through your list. If there’s anything on your list that doesn’t have to be completed today, but does need to be completed within the next 7 days, pencil it onto the appropriate days. Just knowing you’ve created a time and space for them will free you up to focus on other, more important, priorities right here and right now.

Step #5: Time Block The Rest.

All that should be left on your list are those items that (a) must be done today, (b) are linked to a top priority item and (c) must be done by you and only you. You may want to break them into 45-minute blocks of time, alternating with 15-minute breaks, so you know you’ll accomplish them and also give attention to quick fix items that crop up. Write those blocks of time in your calendar.

And anything else that crops up during your day? Take them through steps 1 through five and get your attention back on your declared focus for the day!

That’s it. 5 simple steps to create your Ta-Da! List. Watch how much more focused and productive you are.


Creating High Payoff Focus That Accelerates Your Results

by Linda Feinholz September 13, 2007

By Linda Feinholz, “Your Success Catalyst” I kicked off coaching with one of my Platinum Private Coaching clients, Brad, this week. As we discussed the High Payoff Vision that he is setting for himself, he mentioned that one of his goals is to ‘level’ his week. When I asked him to say more about that, […]

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by Linda Feinholz July 16, 2007

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by Linda Feinholz May 24, 2007

By Linda Feinholz, “Your Success Catalyst”We each face the same issue when we’re immersed in a topic or a challenge: We get lost in a forest of low pay-off ideas that show up and lose sight of the High Pay-Off choices right in front of us. And the more lost we feel, the less certain […]

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Change 1 Tool And You Can Change It All!

by Linda Feinholz May 14, 2007

Forget what you’ve invested in time and money in a system that isn’t working for you. That’s a sunk cost and it’s wasting your time and attention in frustration trying to fit yourself to the tool. Let’s get back to basics. Do you know how you do your best work? Think back over many situations, […]

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