Barbara Corcoran swears by this 2-step strategy for organizing and achieving goals: It’s ‘essential’

Being a millionaire businesswoman and investor comes with lots of hard work and even more responsibility. Barbara Corcoran’s calendar system helps her stay productive.

The 74-year-old “Shark Tank” star says that success starts with putting pen to paper. That may seem counterintuitive, given the plethora of online scheduling websites and mobile apps available today.

“Most of us operate our calendars online. I, myself, prefer to write a calendar,” she recently said in a free, live Q&A with her Patreon community. “Somehow, [when] I write it down, I remember it.”

This observation has science behind it. In a study of 267 people by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, those who actually wrote their aspirations down were 42% more likely to achieve them.

Corcoran recommended her two-step method for staying organized and productive. The first step, she said, is to get clear about your goals.

“Before you even make any entries in your calendar, make a list of what’s most important to you. What are you going to [make a] priority? What’s going to come first?” she said. “For me, [those] things are TV exposure, beauty treatments. … I hammer them all out in my calendar in advance.”

The next step, which Corcoran called her “secret,” is figuring out which goals you want to assign to which days, and group related tasks together.

“Declare a specific day for getting done” what you need to accomplish on a specific project, she said. “For example, I put all my media appearances on one day. I collect it together so it’s not scattered throughout the week, sending me in a [tizzy].”

This way, she’s better able to focus. And she can take on each goal at the time when it makes the most sense. “I put all my household things that I want to accomplish on Tuesday morning, [and] I do all my organizational projects on Friday, because I’m looking forward to the next week and I can organize better,” Corcoran added.

How to schedule tasks so you’re more likely to accomplish them

Following Corcoran’s method could look like completing easier or quick-turnaround tasks at the top of the week, while saving harder-to-complete goals for later. But planning to get the simpler jobs done first may not be the best strategy for everyone, according to Maryam Kouchaki, a professor of management at Northwestern University.

In a 2019 study, Kouchaki, along with other researchers, found that tackling easy goals first, also known as task completion preference, can initially make you feel accomplished. In the long run, though, it can limit your learning and productivity in the long run.

“In the short-term, the person could actually feel satisfied and less anxious. But avoiding hard tasks indefinitely also cuts off opportunities to learn and improve one’s skills,” Kouchaki told Fast Company in 2020. 

That doesn’t mean it’s wise to overload your schedule with hard tasks, either, she said: “My intuition is if people start with a difficult task and try to stick with it until they finish it, they could become demotivated without a sense of progress, and super fatigued.”

Instead, “having a combination of easy and difficult is a more effective strategy,” she said. “You get sense of completion but, at the same time, mindful focus on difficult tasks as well.”

Regardless of whether you handle easy tasks first or a mix of simple and challenging ones, the key is to be clear on your objectives at the outset. Then, cluster related obligations together to figure out when it best works for you to finish them, according to Corcoran.

“Grouping is essential in having an organized calendar,” she said. “I never used to believe that. I used to have things all over the place. I don’t anymore.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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