Simplify your list down to the simplest of essentials, and you can eliminate the need for complex planning systems. In the end, it’s strange, and you are left extremely busy, trying to knock off all your tasks. Simplify – reduce your goals & tasks to the essentials.

Here are the essential moves:

1. Eliminate, eliminate. Take a several minutes to review your task and project lists, and see how much you can simplify them. Make it a challenge. See if you can cut it in half! If you’ve got 50 items, cut it down to 25. Then try to cut it even more a few days later. How do you eliminate tasks? Sometimes a task gets old and isn’t required anymore. Cross those out. Sometimes a task can be delegated. Do that, and cross it out. Read on for more tips.

2. Know what’s essential. How do you know what’s essential? By knowing what your foremost aim is, and other goals if necessary. You really should concentrate on one goal at a time, but if you want to do 2 or 3, that’s OK too. Just don’t do 10 aims or anything. Those goals should be your essential projects. Any smaller tasks are necessary if they assist you accomplish those goals, and not essential if they’re not related.

3. Simplify your commitments. How many projects are you committed to? How many extracurricular essence do you do? You can’t do it all. You need to learn to say no, and value your time. And if you’ve already said yes, it’s still possible to say no. Just be honest with people and tell them that you have a high number of urgent projects to complete and cannot commit to this any longer. Slowly, you can eliminate your commitments to a very small number — only have those commitments in your life that give you joy and value.

4. Simplify your information stream. I’ve recently gone through the process of eliminating most of my RSS feeds. I also have cut back on the number of emails I respond to. And for more than a year now, I haven’t read a single newspaper, watched television , or read a single magazine. The news no longer gives me any value. Simplify the inputs into your life, and you can simplify the outputs.

5. Review weekly. Your to-do list minds to build up over the course of a week. Take a few minutes each week to eliminate, and eliminate some more. You don’t need a enormous to-do list to be productive just do the stuff that matters.

6. Big Rocks. During your weekly review, estimate out the most important tasks that you’d like to accomplish over the next week. Those are your Big Rocks. Now place them on your schedule, first thing in the day, on different days of the upcoming week. Make those the most important tasks each day, and do them first — don’t let them be pushed back to the end of the day.

7. Biggest value. Consider the case of two newspaper writers. One is super busy and writes a dozen articles a week. They’re all decent articles, but they’re pretty routine in nature. The second writer writes one article this week, but it gets the front page headline, it’s talked about all around town and blogged about on the Internet, it gets him a journalism award and he becomes a big name in journalism. From this article, he lands a bigger job and a book deal. That example is a bit extreme, but it illustrates the point that some tasks really pay off in the long term, and others just keep you busy and in the long run, don’t matter at all. The first writer could have stayed home all week and slept, and it wouldn’t have changed his world much. Focus on those big tasks, that will make a name for you, that will generate long-term income, that will give you lasting satisfaction and happiness. Those are your Big Rocks. Eliminate the rest.

8. Three MITs. Here’s your planning system each day: write down your three Most Important Tasks on a sheet of paper. That’s it. Check off those tasks when you finish them. Devote your entire day, if possible, to those three tasks, or at the very least devote the first half of your day to them. Your MITs are the Big Rocks you planned for this week, and any other MIT that you need to do for today.

9. Batch small tasks. During the course of the day, other stuff will come up that you really need to take care of or they could create problems for you later. Write those down on another small list of small tasks (mine is at the bottom of my pocket notebook page). You don’t need to do them right now, most likely. Just write them down for later. Set a time (probably 30 minutes or so) to batch process these tasks sometime later in the day (perhaps 4 p.m.). Do your MITs first, and then do all the small tasks at the same time. These might be calls, emails, writing a short letter, doing paperwork, etc. Try to do them quickly and knock them off your list. You might have a few tasks left at the end of the day. Better to leave the small tasks until tomorrow than the big ones. Batch process email, too if you do it throughout the day, it’s just a bunch of interruptions. Just do it once or twice a day.