With so many distractions present in our everyday lives like slapping bass or watching the Tennessee Titans dump on whatever team they’re playing every Sunday in a non prime-time game, it’s hard to stay on track with all necessary disciplines that it takes to reach our goals.
Habits are essential if you want to be great at anything. The day to day microdetails that don’t seem like they would make any difference whatsoever actually form the person and athlete you become. Everybody looks for the big event or the ‘clutch’ shot to define you as an athlete, but you won't ever get to those beautiful moments, let alone hit the shot, without building up a strong character base.
Crossfit Coach Ben Bergeron loves to talk about building a person before an athlete. Being a competitive person who used to think lifting heavy items up and putting them back down is what makes you a great athlete, I immediately thought this concept was bogus. After dragging my feet for quite some time I decided to hear him out. That’s when things started to click in my rusty ol’ noggin.
What you put in every day is what you get out. Small habits performed daily that seem completely irrelevant while you’re doing them can either make or break you. If you spend an extra 10 minutes every day watching an Instagram comedian with a straight face instead of doing something like meditating, you lose out on over 60 hours per year of all the benefits that come with meditation.
I’m not trying to tell you to never relax or have a fun time, but rather how you can spend a couple minutes each day to ultimately steer your life to a desired destination. For me, the easiest way to stay on track with all of the daily microtasks that I think will take me to the next level is by writing them all down in a power list.
I first stumbled upon the idea of using a power list when I saw it on USA Volleyball National Team Libero, Dustin Watten’s Instagram. Dustin Watten has been a huge inspiration for me as a volleyball player, and as a person who is constantly trying to improve himself in all areas of life. I closely follow all of the awesome content he posts like his passing courses and his beautiful messages about loving those close to you or resilience in the face of adversity. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that when he made a post about the lists he would make of everyday tasks, that I would be the first person to implement it into my own life.
Dustin Watten’s room from 2012 when he first began making a power list in an attempt to “squeeze a little more intention and growth out of each day.”
Simply put, a power list is a list of microtasks that you wish to complete every day. Each day, the list resets and you have to restart, crossing off each item as you complete it. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day, are sick, or super busy, you are going to try to the best of your ability to finish these tasks.
Not only will you feel accomplished when you cross each task off one by one, but this reward will help you make you more productive and help each day be a little more intentional. We can all take a look inside and see that we have been guilty at one point of strolling through the actions, rather than having a purpose for each day we live.
In the long term, not only will you be an ultra disciplined human, but the microtasks that seem so irrelevant while checking them off, end up being the differentiators between where you are now and where you want to be. Often labelled as the cliche in the sports world of getting “1% better” or in management terms, the aggregation of marginal gains, the idea of small events being put together to see tremendous benefit is what the idea of power listing is all about. Dave Brailsford used this theory of marginal gains to create a dynasty in the cycling world with Team Sky.
After using a listing technique for almost a decade, Dustin Watten’s list has many important items on it. A standout for me is “clean.” He believes that by having a clean house, you gain peace and tranquility from the trouble and stress that the cluttered, outside world brings. Check everything on his list at his website dustywatten.com
In 2010, Dave Brailsford became the manager of the Sky Cycling Team based out of Great Britain. Brailsford constantly pushed the philosophy of achieving one percent gains in all areas of performance. Not only would he dial in on the obvious things about cycling like optimizing specific parts on the bike or developing a particular athlete’s power output, but he took an approach that looked at absolutely everything that might affect performance in the tiniest bit.
He made sure each athlete knew how to wash their hands in the most effective way possible, getting rid of the most amount of germs, because an athlete getting sick means no training. He would also look at tiny details like which pillow and mattress will induce the deepest sleep at night and then bring them to every hotel. He even went as far as painting the inside of the team truck white so they could see more dust particles that may throw the finely tuned bikes out of whack. Brailsford predicted that if the team kept getting better by one percent every day, they would win the Tour de France in 5 years’ time. He was wrong. It took Team Sky only 3 years to win, and then went on to win 7 of the next 8.
Brailsford explains this theory best when he said “if you break down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”
Who knows, maybe this way of thinking is excellent for all individuals to live by and can be achieved by using a tool like a power list to find the one percent every day, or maybe he just found a way to perform the Lance Armstrong technique without getting caught. Either way, it’s worth a shot!
Everything sounds great so far, and now you are ready to make your own list. There obviously aren’t any rules regarding exactly how your list should be formed, but I think following a couple strategies from somebody who has done it before will help you make the most out of your list.
As far as templating goes, there are a couple of different routes you could take. You could write everything down by hand each day or print a sheet off with your list. You could also have the list on your computer or phone on an app like Trello and go into that each day ( Reminders App also works great). I find that I am much more consistent with crossing off all of the items on my list when I print off a list using Excel. The list comes out nice and organized, and it is very simple to copy and paste the tasks into the coming days and weeks. Now that you have an idea of how you are going to make your list. How do you know what to put on the actual list?
First off, it is important to have goals for your list. What exactly do you want to gain from crossing out items on a list every day? Do you want to be a better soccer player? Partner in a relationship? A better person overall? Once you answer that, what tasks will help you do that? For an athlete, that might consist of foam rolling your muscles every day or hitting a target measure for water consumption. You might perform random acts of kindness or write down things you are grateful for daily if your goal is to be a happier person. Pretty much anything you think you could do every day that will help you reach your goal.
There are endless possibilities of microtasks that you could do depending on your goals. The hard part is now which tasks are most important and how many you should be doing to realistically be able to sustain this growth.
Coach Ozzy’s power list from last summer. He has extended his list substantially from his original 4 tasks.
Coach Ozzy’s more cost-effective, but equally as useful list medium, the reminders app. By being able to set reminders to return daily, this is Ozzy’s new favourite way to check things off his list.
If you go ahead and make a list of 25 different microtasks, there is absolutely no way that you will be able to complete all of them, every single day. You might even get discouraged by this and end up scrapping the idea of a power list before you start reaping the rewards of marginal gains.
I began my journey with power lists by having 4 super simple things that I was going to do every single day. Make my bed, stretch, read a non-fiction book for at least 10 minutes, and drink a gallon of water. I made sure I nailed each of these tasks each and every day before adding more. Once these events became a habit, I began adding things like meditation and random acts of kindness, progressing my list to be a holistic view of microtasks that I believe would benefit my personal life and athletic performance in the long run.
The most important thing is to not get too throttle heavy and add a thousand items to your list when you first start. Begin with a couple of tasks and turn them into habits.
At the end of the day, it’s your list and you can choose how many tasks you are going to complete and what those items are going to be. Even if it’s just one thing that you start with, give the power list a chance and see where it takes you. At the very least, you’ll end up with some sweet art for your room.
Connect with me on Instagram and let me know how your list is going. I would love to know what tips helped the most or if you need a hand thinking of things to put on your list for what you want to achieve.
We appreciate everybody for rockin’ with us! Make sure to stop by next week for another Sled Dog Sunday!
Here are some other posts you might like