Are You Using The Santa Claus Principle?

[Updated August 11, 2021] Many business people feel overwhelmed, like they have a hundred things to do. They wonder if they’re making any progress. They feel like their minds are going to burst with all the things they’re trying to keep track of and remember.

Your mind, however, is NOT the place to keep anything about what you have to do. Your mind is where you do your creative work, designing solutions and solving problems.

As the author of the fabulous book Getting Things Done, David Allen says, we have to free up our mental RAM in order to tap the extraordinary creativity that lies within every one of us. He writes, “If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear.”

So what does this have to do with Santa Claus?

For many of us, when we were kids we were excited to make a list of things we wanted for Christmas. You know, “make your list and check it twice.”

Believe it or not, this old adage is one of the first steps to maximum productivity is making a list. Of course, there’s more to staying productive and organized than just list-making. But if you’re not doing that consistently, then my guess is you could be a lot more productive than you are.

What if you could gain an hour a day by being more organized? You’d gain over six full work weeks per year. What could you do with that kind of time? Perhaps create new products or services for your clients, service your customers better, or spend more time with your mate, kids, and friends.

I was talking with a colleague recently. At one point in the conversation, she said she had so much going on she was going to have to make a list and write everything down. She is quite successful, so on the one hand, apparently she has a system that works for her. On the other hand, I was shocked that she didn’t already write things down. Is it possible that she could be even more successful if she did?

Chet Holmes in his bestseller, The Ultimate Sales Machine, lists six steps to great time management. One of these is: “Keeping a list will double your productivity right away.” In other words, don’t underestimate the power of making lists.

If this is something that resonates with you, I suggest that first you download everything that’s on your mind into project lists and “next action” lists. Allen defines a project as anything that takes more than one single action to complete. “Next actions” are the single next step you need to take on every project. By defining your next actions, you avoid the paralysis that frequently comes when looking at a project that seems huge and daunting.

For example, one of my projects is to write web content for a particular client. My next action as of this writing is to interview the business owner to understand his ideal clients and their fears and desires. “Create web content” can easily seem overwhelming. “Interview business owner” is a lot easier to do.

The second vitally important step of the Santa Claus Principle is that you have to check your lists twice. While writing your lists is tremendously helpful in and of itself, reviewing on a consistent and regular basis (checking it twice) gives the whole process rocket boosters. I have found I must do at least a consistent weekly update and review in order not to feel overwhelmed.

So, how up to date is your list? You probably know you need to write things down, keep them current and review consistently, but are you doing it? As the saying goes, the palest ink fades more slowly than the sharpest memory. Keep your mental RAM free to mobilize your incredible creativity by harnessing the Santa Claus Principle.

One tool some of my clients use for this is Trello boards.

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