If you feel like your to-do list is full of items that simply fulfil tasks other people have hoisted on you and not enough items that fulfil your own goals, writer and entrepreneur Scott Scheper suggests examining your proactive-to-reactive task ratio.
As Scheper defines them, proactive tasks are "those that are driven by your goals"; reactive tasks are "those that are driven by others". His claimed secret to a good to-do list:
Your goal should be to balance out your tasks so that 20% are spent on reactive tasks, and 80% are spent on proactive tasks.
Reactive tasks will make you a living, proactive tasks will make you successful.
The advice makes sense in theory (hit up his full post for a more detailed examination), but in practice it's difficult to control the speed at which those reactive tasks rain down. Scheper offers tips for carrying out what he refers to as the "to-do list secret" using various tools that are staples among most Lifehacker readers, but it's worth a read, especially if you feel like your spending more time on reactive tasks than you'd like.
Got your own methods for keeping your proactive-to-reactive task ratio in check? Let's hear it in the comments.
The To Do List Secret Everybody Ought to Know [How to Get Focused]