Vail Daily column: The ‘less is more’ approach |

Vail Daily column: The ‘less is more’ approach

Michael Norton
Vail, CO Colorado

The other day as I was creating my to-do list I was surprised to find myself staring at 34 items on that list. My belief was that all of these were things that I felt needed my attention or they were actual tasks that had to be completed.

I am a huge believer in lists. They keep me focused and absolutely help me when it comes to my forgetful nature. And as I looked at my daunting list of 34 to-dos, I wondered at what point did I allow myself to even think that I could manage such a long list let alone successfully accomplish half the things on the list in just one day.

Now I literally create such a list every day and do so on the evening before the following day. And I keep my to-do list in a notebook so I can carry forward tasks that were left uncompleted as well as look back with a sense of accomplishment at everything that I had actually fulfilled. So as I looked back through my notebook I noticed that several weeks ago my lists started getting bigger, growing from 10 or 12 as a high, then up to 15, then 18, 23, 27, and now 34.

I also noticed that I had gotten away from a disciplined approach that I was taught and that I still use to prioritize my lists each day. I use the A, B, C system to prioritize my list. The “A” list includes the things I absolutely must tackle before the end of the day. The “B” list items are those things that are very important and if I have time after I have completed my “A” list, I start to get after the “B” list. And anything that receives a “C” on the priority scale is something I know I can schedule for a later date and actually place those items on a future list.

Since my out of control list of 34 to-dos seemed so high, I decided to also look at each task and tried to determine how much time each one would actually take me to complete. Now I am not the world’s greatest mathematician, but I do know there are only 24 hours in a day and when I added up all of the hours on my list, they equaled 54.5 hours. If the list that I had created was my week’s to-do list, I would have been in great shape. However, I subscribe to the daily to-do list as a way of making each day as productive as possible.

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So I went back through the all of the tasks and projects that were in front of me. I went through my A, B, C, prioritization system, and through a “less is more” approach I was able to get my actionable items for the next day down to 11 things that I knew I could successfully complete without diluting my efforts or my results. It was another one of those wake-up calls about trying to do too much and spreading myself too thin.

There have certainly been days where I was able to check off 15 or more to-dos in a single day. And I also know that there were days when I had to focus on just one thing in order to finish a project on time. The point is that sometimes in life, not just with our to-do lists, that we can be more resourceful, increasingly successful, and add deeper meaning when it comes to our families, our friends and our workers when we can take a “less is more” approach to life.

I would love to hear all about your to-dos and how you manage them as well as your thoughts about a “less is more” approach to life at And when we do take the time to focus and prioritize this will definitely be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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