The Don’t Quit List

By Aliya Amershi

We all love lists – right? You see them everywhere – “10 Ways to Become a Successful Entrepreneur”, “The 7 Secrets of the Rich”, “Top 5 Movies this Week”. In fact, Buzzfeed is all about presenting news and stories in a list format. And who could forget David Letterman’s “Top Ten List”. Although those are all the fun lists, we also have our own lists, like our never-ending “To-Do” lists, or perhaps it’s a shopping list of groceries or a planning list for a party. Or maybe we make lists when we have to make major decisions, like “Why should I choose this opportunity over the other?”. Okay so maybe we don’t always love our own lists as much, since looking at it can be quite overwhelming and stressful.

But what if we could make a list that would make us feel happy to look at? So happy that we wish it wouldn’t end. Well, I would like to introduce the “Don’t Quit List”. This is a little inspirational tool I created for myself being a start-up entrepreneur, which is much needed as it’s the toughest job I have ever done. Aside from the non-stop hours, you are facing criticism and rejection on a regular basis. Which is a strange feeling, considering I have always been an overachiever and quite successful in my studies and professional field. I suppose that’s all part of the process of growing when you venture out of your comfort zone to try something new and daring. I have to remind myself to “be brave, not perfect”, as Reshma Saujani perfectly said in her Ted Talk.

I just needed something to keep me motivated in the face of setbacks and because I am a list junkie, the “Don’t Quit List” was perfect for me because it was a list of all the action items I can do to achieve success. There are only two questions I ask myself before I add the item to my list and they are: “Will this action item generate users or revenue?” or “Will this action item generate funding?”. If I answer yes to either or both, it goes on the list, simple. Then I write the action item in past tense form so I can visualize and feel that I already accomplished it every time I look at it. Some items on my list include the following: “Created & published my first blog post”; “Launched my MVP website”; and “Pitched on Dragons’ Den or Sharks’ Tank”. Once I have completed the item successfully on the list, I move it to another list called the “Win List”, so that I can keep track of all my achievements thus far. Which includes this blog post! Plus every time I look at that list it makes me smile. In the event that an item “fails”, I simply cross it off my list so I don’t have to see it and can move on quickly to the next action item on the list. This way I don’t dwell on what didn’t work out since as an entrepreneur we don’t have time to live in the past.

An amazing app that I love to use to create all my lists is Wunderlist, which you can download onto your desktop or mobile device. It also has a web app version that you don’t need to download. The beauty of Wunderlist is that it allows you to create, update, and organize these lists effortlessly, which can be accessed anywhere and also shared with anyone. So say if you are reaching the end of your list, a trusted friend could add some more ideas to the list in real-time, right when you need it the most. You can also email and print these lists if you want to go a little old school. Plus you can add notes, links, deadlines, team members and comments. The list goes on, pun intended.

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Now let’s say you do get to the end of your “Don’t Quit List” and you haven’t reached the level of success that’s right for you. And you have honestly thought of and tried every action item you can do, then that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to quit. Pivot instead and go a different direction. Look at your “Win List”, analyze what aspects of the business was working and run with that. Or try something new completely, whatever it is just keep moving forward and “Don’t Quit”.